Polenta Lasagna (Vegetarian) – Deconstructed
For all of you who are new to polenta/cornmeal as I am, here’s the thing. Polenta is an Italian word and it is a dish made out of boiled corn meal. Corn meal is just coarsely ground corn. It could be yellow or white, its just the color of the corn that is ground up. Corn meal is very high in fiber, iron and niacin among many other benefits. The polenta can be as plain or as flavorful as you want it to be. That was the introduction folks! Now moving ahead to today’s recipe..
I like lasagna. I like all the elements of lasagna. So this idea of polenta lasagna cropped up when I was thinking of making some unconventional lasagna. Yay! Brilliant idea, I said to myself. All happy and excited about having ‘invented’ a recipe, my google search told me that I had only ‘discovered’ it…sigh! But most of the recipes I saw were like a conventional lasagna and I did not like the idea of mushy polenta. I wanted to be able to taste each and every component and still taste like lasagna.
So I came up with this deconstructed version, inspired by a recipe on food network. It was delicious. You need a lot of prep work and this is a great meal to feed a crowd, especially to be served at a grill for vegetarians!! You can make the polenta ahead of time and refrigerate it. Cut the vegetables, marinate and refrigerate them. I use store bought marinara sauce, you could use your favorite jar or homemade. On the day you want to serve this, get the polenta and vegetables out. Grill them or cook indoors as I’ve done here. Any which way, this will be a nice and balanced meal served up with a salad.
Polenta with Cheese and Vegetables
(I made this one day ahead, this recipe is adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe for savory polenta)
Cornmeal (Stoneground) – 1 cup (I used white)
Garlic – 2 cloves (finely minced)
Spring Onions/Scallions – 3-4 (chopped, greens and whites separated)
Green Pepper – 1/4 cup (chopped)
Serrano Chilies – 1 tsp (minced, optional)
Water/Vegetable broth – 4 cups
Unsalted Butter – 2 Tbsp
Salt – to taste
Freshly ground black pepper – 1/4 tsp
Grated Cheese – 2 tbsp (parmesan or pepper jack)
Olive Oil – 2 Tbsp
- Heat oil in a saucepan and saute the whites of the green onions, garlic, green pepper and serrano chilies.
- Add the water/vegetable broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and add the cornmeal, whisking all the time, to make sure no lumps are formed. Reduce the heat to medium and cook covered, stirring occasionally for 30-25 mins.
- Mix in the butter, cheese and greens of the scallions. Immediately pour on a plate/baking tray. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for atleast 4-5 hours. This will firm up the polenta.
Garlic Roasted Vegetables
Eggplant – 1 large (cut into 1/4 inch thick discs)
Zucchini/Summer Squash – 1 large (cut into 1/4 inch thick discs)
Potato – 2 large (cut into 1/4 inch thick discs)
Mushrooms – 10-12 (I used button mushrooms)
Green Peppers – 2 large (cut into strips)
Olive oil – 4-5 Tbsp (or more)
Red Chili powder/Cayenne – 2-3 tsp (optional)
Salt – to taste
Garlic – 3 cloves (grated)
- Mix 2 Tbsp of olive oil, 1 clove of grated garlic, salt to taste and red chili powder in a ziploc bag and drop in the sliced eggplant discs. Seal the bag and coat all the eggplant slices evenly.
- Repeat the above process with potatoes and mushrooms (reduce the spices for mushrooms).
- Grill or broil the vegetables until tender but still slightly crisp.
To Assemble the Lasagna (Serves 4-6 people)
Cooked and cooled polenta
Cheese (I use pepper jack, I love it!)
- Warm up your favorite marinara sauce.
- Cut the cooled polenta into round discs/ rectangular blocks. Grill the polenta or crisp them in some olive oil on the stovetop.
- Pour some marinara sauce on the bottom of the serving platter. Arrange one polenta slice on the center. Build up the grilled vegetables on top of this. Top with one more slice of polenta and cheese. Garnish with some carrot juliennes and spring onions. Serve immediately.
See the colors?? That’s what I love the most about this dish!