My first memory of polenta is when I was in high school, working as a hostess at a Northwest-Lebanese fusion restaurant on Bainbridge Island in Washington State. One of my favorite entrees at the restaurant was a polenta dish that included rounds of polenta stacked high with various vegetables (I know for certain that portobello mushrooms were one layer and tomato was another, but don't recall exactly what else was included - that was around the same time that the only food I cooked for myself were frozen burritos, in other words, before I was really paying much real attention to food).
Polenta is one of those grains that I often forget about. When I remember about it, I usually make something with it. I was reminded of its existence earlier this week when scanning my pantry in search of an evening meal. I decided to try to recreate the dish from my past, but with the vegetables I had on hand (sadly, no portobello, but eggplant turned out to be a great substitute). Here's what I did:
2/3 c. polenta
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 small globe eggplant, sliced into 1/2" rounds
2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
4 oz. mozzarella, sliced
fresh basil leaves
salt & pepper
Heat 2 cups water in a large pot on high until boiling. Slowly add polenta and oregano. Reduce heat, stirring constantly, for 20-30 minutes, until thickened. Spoon evenly into the first 6 spaces of an oiled muffin pan (or into an 8x8" square pan - if you go this route, cut the polenta into 6 squares after it has set). Set aside and allow to set.
Cook eggplant in an oiled skillet over medium heat until tender.
Oil the bottom of a baking dish. Assemble your stacks: polenta, mozzarella, basil, eggplant, and tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil under high heat for 5-10 minutes, until cheese has melted and tomatoes are sizzling. Top with additional basil, if desired.