Polenta is a great gluten-free starch that can easily be turned into a vegetarian entree. Polenta, also called corn grits can be served soft or spread into a pan and chilled. It makes a great foil for our Kale Pesto, the bunches in the CSA Shares have been plentiful! The pesto is a fun departure from typical steamed or sautéed greens. The squares are great entree size, but they could also be cut smaller for appetizers. For this batch I cooked the polenta until it was extra thick, then added butter salt and pepper, and spread it into a greased baking pan. I let it chill overnight before cutting into squares to broil and top with pesto. Chilled polenta can also be grilled, but it is fragile so be careful! This is a great dish for planning ahead, if you cook the polenta and pesto ahead of time you can have dinner ready in minutes.
Check the back of your polenta package for cooking directions and water ratios. For this batch I used a 2:1 water to polenta ratio, because I wanted the results to be thicker. Simmer the polenta for about 30 minutes stirring frequently. Remove polenta from heat, add butter, salt +pepper. You can also add grated cheese during this step. Spread the polenta in a greased baking dish and let cool to room temperature. If making ahead cover and let chill overnight.
When polenta is cool and firm to the touch, invert pan over a cutting board, then cut into squares.
Heat the broiler to high, brush squares lightly with olive oil. Broil polenta for 2- 4 minutes depending on your broiler until the edges are golden. Keep a close eye on them. Remove from oven and flip over. Sprinkle a little bit of parmesan over each square then top with about a tablespoon of pesto. This will help the pesto stick to the polenta. Top the pesto with a sprinkle of parmesan then broil for about one minute until the cheese is melted.
Polenta Squares with Kale Pesto
1 cup polenta
3 cups water
salt + pepper
2 tablespoons butter
Make polenta. Bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil. Slowly stir in polenta, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer polenta for about 30 minutes stirring frequently so polenta doesn’t stick to pan. Stir in butter, and salt+ pepper to taste. Spread polenta into a greased 9×13 baking pan. Chill until polenta is firm to the touch or overnight.
1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp sea salt
Blanch the kale. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Boil kale for one minute then transfer to a bowl of ice water. When kale is cool, use your hands to squeeze as much water from the kale as you can. Wrap the kale in paper towels and squeeze again until the kale is as dry as you can get it.
Use a food processor to mince garlic. When garlic is minced add cheese and seeds to the processor. Pulse together. Add kale to the processor, then stream oil in while processing. Add lemon and salt, and pulse once more. Taste and adjust salt and lemon if necessary.
Assemble squares. Preheat broiler to high. Invert polenta onto a cutting board and cut into squares. Place polenta squares on an oiled baking pan. Brush each square with olive oil. Broil polenta squares on high for 2 – 4 minutes, until the edges are golden. Watch carefully, cooking times will vary from oven to oven. Remove polenta from broil, flip over. Sprinkle a little bit of parmesan over each square then top with about a tablespoon of pesto. This will help the pesto stick to the polenta. Top the pesto with a sprinkle of parmesan then broil for about one minute until the cheese is melted.