It’s been a crazy week already! The excitement of being one of the finalists for Best Food Blog in the Black Weblog Awards has us buzzing. We appreciate everyone’s votes, which managed to push us into the top four. Now we’re virtually duking it out, and would of course love it if you’d help us take home the virtual trophy. Hopefully you will be kind enough to vote for us again! You’ll find the link at the end of today’s story. In the meantime, we must keep eating.
Even though it’s stifling hot outside, and turning on the oven or stove does not help with the rising temperatures, we’ve been eating a lot of polenta this summer. Polenta is worth blasting a gas stove to boil and bubble in a pot. Polenta is worthy of an oven turned to 350 degrees in the early evening when the trapped heat of the apartment has yet to release into the gradual and welcome cooling of the night. Yes friends, polenta merits all of these things because it is so good. Morning, noon and night, polenta can make its way into a variety of dishes. So close to our Southern friend, those good ‘ol grits, it’s prepared in a similar way with a similar consistency and taste, but it has managed to make itself the choice ingredient in a wider variety of dishes. That could be because of it can be paired with so many other ingredients, and it can really take on great flavors if you choose to do something crazy and funky with it. We’re not sure why we don’t use it more often, but we support polenta (and grits too!) in all of its ventures. It’s one of our favorite go to items when we have to do a bit of impromptu culinary magic.
It was the dead of summer, yet we had a variety of feel good winter ingredients in the fridge and pantry–polenta, ground beef, Australian parmesan. This was something pulled together in a pinch on the kind of night where you don’t want to cook, but you want to eat. That should be reason enough. The final dish was perfect (although that picture is not!)–hearty, hot and filling. We’ll have to keep it on file for those days when the nights are much cooler and a bottle of red vino is open.
Beef and Polenta Pie – Serves 6 to 8
1 pound ground beef
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 zucchinis, sliced
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups water, divided
9 ounces roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
3 ounces Neufchatel cheese
1 1/2 cup fresh parmesan, grated
1. Add olive oil to a wide pan. When hot, slide in garlic and onions.
2. Once onions start to go translucent, add beef, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook until browned, approximately 6-8 minutes.
3. As beef cooks, pour 1 1/2 cups of water into a pan and set to boil. Stir cornmeal into remaining 1/2 cup of water. When water is boiling, add cornmeal and stir well. Turn heat down to simmer and cook according to package directions. Stir in Neufchatel cheese at the end of the cooking time.
4. Remove beef and set aside to drain, but save pan drippings. Add zucchini directly to pan drippings and cook until they start to soften, approximately 5-7 minutes.
5. Using a 9-inch pie pan, layer cooked ground beef with zucchini followed by roasted peppers. Top with 1 cup of parmesan cheese.
6. Spread cooked polenta evenly on top of the beef and vegetables. Top with remaining parmesan cheese.
7. Line a baking dish with foil and set pie pan on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cheese browns.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.