Sunday, November 09, 2008

Polenta Pizza

After an afternoon spent cleaning up our kitchen cupboards--reorganizing, getting rid of those random cereal boxes that contain only crumbs, discovering the four kinds of hot chocolate hiding in the back--I decided that I needed to make something for Sunday dinner that would use only ingredients that I already had. With my pantry inventory in my head, I headed on over to 101 Cookbooks for inspiration. What did I find? Heidi's recipe for baked polenta fries.

I wasn't in the mood for polenta fries, but polenta pizza? I was in! Think a thin, crisp-exteriored, creamy-interiored rosemary and black pepper polenta crust, topped with spinach sauteed with garlic, sweet summer squash (a.k.a. yellow zuchini), cremini mushrooms caramelized with balsamic vinegar, red-wine tomato sauce, tangy Italian olives, and a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese. Delicious.

The premise is quite simple. Get a tetra pack of your favourite low-sodium chicken broth simmering on the stove. Add in dried rosemary, crushed by rubbing between your hands, a couple of good pinches of salt, and a solid grinding of black pepper. Get out your whisk, and start whisking in your cornmeal. Keep adding until the mixture in your pot is about the consistency of Play-Doh, and begins to pull away from the sides of the pot. You may need to switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon at some point in this process.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and once your polenta has cooled enough to touch, dump it out onto your parchment. With damp hands (this keeps them from sticking), spread your polenta out on the baking sheet in a thin layer. Cool in the fridge for half an hour or so; toward the end of your cooling time, preheat the oven to 450F. Bake your polenta until the edges are crisp and getting deep golden brown.

In the meantime, prepare your toppings. Spinach: saute baby spinach in olive oil with minced garlic and salt until wilted. Summer squash: slice thinly, do the same as with the spinach, but sans garlic. Mushrooms: slice cremini mushrooms; saute over high heat with a good splash of balsamic vinegar. Sauce: reduce a quarter bottle of red wine until thick and syrupy. Stir in a bottle of tomato passata, some pureed garlic, salt, and dried oregano. Olives: squash the pits out, and dice. Cheese: grate!

When your polenta is cooked and cooled slightly, reduce the oven temp to 350. Layer on your toppings: sauce, spinach, squash, mushrooms, olives, and cheese. Bake in your 350 oven until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown in spots. Slice, and serve.

Using polenta as the base for my pizza really helped to up the nutritional value of the crust, and the toppings were so flavourful and healthy that the hubby didn't even notice that there wasn't any meat involved. The rosemary and black pepper in the crust gave the pizza a really punchy flavour base, and the toppings retained their individual flavour characteristics so that each bite had something a bit different to it. And think about how many different options you've got with this: thyme flavoured crust, topped with caramelized onions and goat's cheese? Or an oregano scented crust with sundried tomatoes, black olives, zucchini and feta? Or a basil accented crust with sliced roma tomatoes, bocconici cheese, proscuitto, and fresh basil? The options are endless--and delicious.


Mariecel said...

I have the same problem with tea. I'm always looking for a nice new tea, and because of that I've a whole cupboard full of different types, much to hubby's dismay. He doesn't mind black or green teas, but he's *allergic* to anything "healthy" (read: herbal), which make up about half the cupboard.

Melissa said...

Cereal is our nemesis. I don't actually eat it all that much, unless it's the summer, but I come from a cereal-addict family, and Jonathan loves it as well. We've currently got about 5 boxes going, and it gets out of hand.
I was excited about the hot chocolate, though. It's getting to be prime hot chocolate season...