Plant-Based “Classic” Polenta
Northern Italian farmers originally introduced polenta as a cornmeal porridge. Fast forward hundreds of years and Melissa’s offers a version of polenta (which is naturally plant-based) that is conveniently precooked and ready to slice, bake, fry or grill. But not only can it be eaten in its solid form— with the addition of plant-based milk, butter and cheese, you can create a creamy version, like how restaurants throughout Italy prepare it.
By starting with Melissa’s solid polenta, you’ll save at least 20 minutes of cooking time, and the result will be as creamy and delicious as if you’d started from scratch. To add another layer of texture and lots of nutrition, sautéed lacinato kale, enhanced with fresh garlic and brightened with fresh lemon juice, serves as a bed to lay the polenta on. And for the cherry on the top, a mélange of seasonal heirloom tomatoes at room temperature, which would also be fantastic used for bruschetta, is poured over the top of the warm polenta for extra freshness and flavor.
For the tomato topping:
2 different varieties heirloom tomatoes, cubed
1 ½ tablespoons extra version olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
Pinch of fresh ground black pepper
½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade (ribbons) style
For the polenta:
1 package Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta
1 cup plant-based milk, unsweetened (I used oat)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ cup Dried Tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water and chopped
¾ cup plant-based shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons plant-based butter
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (optional)
For the sautéed kale:
1 bunch lacinato kale
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra version olive oil
Juice of ½ a lemon
Pinch of salt
To prepare the tomato topping, place the cubed tomatoes in a bowl, along with the garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh basil. Stir to combine and set aside.
To prepare the polenta in a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, heat the milk, salt and pepper. Carefully add the cubed polenta and mash the polenta into the milk mixture.
Whisk together until smooth. Add in the sun-dried tomatoes, cheese and butter and whisk to combine until creamy. Turn off the heat and cover the pot.
To prepare the Kale, wash and pat dry and then trim off the stems of the kale and set aside. Chop the leaves and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a sauté plan. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the chopped kale stems and stir to coat with the oil and garlic. Sauté for about 2 minutes and then add the chopped leaves continuing to sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Squeeze the lemon juice over the kale, turn off the heat, and set aside.
Place some sautéed kale in the bottom of a serving bowl. Spoon some polenta over the kale. Top with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts (optional).