Friday, October 31, 2008

baked polenta with italian sausage and vegetables

I've come to realize (already), that being a food stylist is no easy matter. This dish is so tasty and even tasty looking when it comes out of the oven, all hot and bubbly and cheesy. Unfortunately, the pictures I took did not do it justice. So I will omit the photos and you will have to use your imagination to picture this flavorful dish. The layer of golden polenta covered in spicy Italian sausage and tender sauteed vegetables, topped with melted Parmesan cheese. Mmmm... Looks good huh?
I love polenta. I think it may even be my favorite "starch", unless I happen to have some duck or goose fat at hand to roast potatoes in... mmm yummy. But you will have to wait for a future posting for that one!
The first time I bought polenta it came already cooked and in a tube. I thought it was horrible and wondered why anyone would like it. Then I discovered stone ground polenta, aka grits. You can get it in a finer grind, it's only cornmeal, but I like the texture of the stone ground. I use Bob's Red Mill brand which is usually found in the organic aisle.
This recipe is a very easy way to make polenta as it doesn't require frequent stirring like the stove top method. I like to use hot turkey Italian sausage for this dish but you could use regular pork Italian sausage if you prefer.

Baked polenta with Italian sausage and vegetables

1 1/2 cups stone ground corn grits
3 1/2 cups homemade or low sodium chicken broth (2 cans)
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 - 20 oz package hot or sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 large red onion, diced
2 zucchini squash, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 red or yellow sweet bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 pound firm ripe tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 13 x 9 inch glass baking pan. Add the polenta, broth, milk and salt. Stir gently to combine and dot with butter. Cover with foil (non-stick foil works best), and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, stir and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
While the polenta cooks, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into smaller pieces as it browns. Transfer sausage to a bowl. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Reduce slightly and add to the sausage.
Add another 1 tbsp oil to the pan and saute the onion for a few minutes. Add the zucchini and peppers, season with salt and pepper and continue to saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes and sausage and cook for a few minutes, until the tomatoes start to soften and the liquid is mostly evaporated. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
When the polenta has cooked for 50 minutes remove it from the oven and stir gently with a fork. Top with the sausage-vegetable mixture and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
Cover, return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes, till Parmesan cheese is melted and slightly browned.
Serves 8
I would not freeze this recipe as the vegetables can get watery but it does reheat very well in the microwave.

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ~Lewis Grizzard

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