Mediterranean Polenta Loaf

We had this yumminess last night for dinner, along with soup and salad.  The recipe is from the Vegetarian Times cookbook, with a few tweaks (they ask for parmesan, I use pepperjack, they grill, I broil).  You can make this creamier by adding butter or a bit more cheese while cooking the polenta.  Next time, I think I will add some crushed red pepper flakes to the boiling water to infuse a little more heat into it, and probably add some fresh parsley and dill for a bit more flavor.

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

3 oz pepperjack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup olives, chopped

1 cup canned artichoke hearts, chopped

Directions

1.  Bring four cups of water to a rolling boil in a saucepan.  Add salt and pepper.  Over medium heat, slowly stir in the cornmeal a little bit at a time, trying to keep lumps from forming.  Cook over medium to low heat, stirring continuously, until the water is absorbed, the cornmeal starts pulling away from the sides of the saucepan, and your spoon can stand up straight in the polenta.

2.  Stir in the cheese until it has melted.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes, olives and artichokes, and mix to distribute evenly.

3.  Spoon into a lightly oiled pan or dish (size and depth do not really matter… just pick a size based on how thick you want your polenta loaf) and put aside to set.  This can be done up to a day in advance of serving.

4.  About 20 minutes before serving, place the polenta loaf under a broiler for about 10 minutes, or until the top of the loaf starts to brown.  Remove from broiler and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Cut the polenta into whatever size pieces you want and serve warm.

Savory Vegetable Tart Redux

Last weekend, I wanted to try my savory vegetable tart recipe in a Springform pan, as I had seen on a few websites.  The pastry recipe was exactly the same.  As for the filling, I used one less egg, omitted the fennel, and omitted the goat cheese for this version (having both goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes made for a saltier tart than I prefer).  It worked out great, although I would probably reduce the quantity of pastry dough on the sides of the tart as it was a little thick and made a serving rather heavy.  This version also required a bit more time in the oven.

Savory Vegetable Tart

Ingredients & Directions

For the tart shell (can be prepared up to a day before and refrigerated):

3 cups all-purpose flour

15 tbsp unsalted butter (1 and 7/8 sticks), room temperature

6 tbsp ice water

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, butter, salt and sugar, using your fingers, until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.  (Alternatively, pulse ingredients together in a food processor until it resembles coarse bread crumbs).

2.  Slowly add the ice water, adding just enough to allow the dough to combine.  Shape the dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to 24 hours).

3.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Remove the dough from the fridge and separate into two pieces, one using about 2/3 of the dough and the other the remaining 1/3 of the dough.  Roll out the larger piece of dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  The dough should be about a quarter of a inch thick or slightly less.  Place over a 9-inch tart or pie pan (I prefer the pie pan as it is deeper) and shape to the pan.  Cut the excess dough from around the edges, leaving about 1/2 an inch.  Turn the overhang inwards and crimp the edges.  Repeat with the remainder of the dough, using a smaller tart or pie pan, or mini tart pans.  (I had enough dough for four mini tart pans.)

4.  Cover with foil or parchment paper, using pie weights or dried beans to hold the foil/paper down and keep the center of the dough from puffing up too much.  Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes, until the bottom of the dough is lightly baked through.  Remove the pie weights and foil/paper.  Continue baking for another 15 to 25 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden brown.  Keep an eye on the mini tart pans, if you use them, as the crust will bake faster and may brown too much.  When done, remove from oven and set aside to cool.  Can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before assembling the tart.

 

For the filling (all but the egg mixture can be prepared up to a day before):

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into quarters lengthwise

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into quarters lengthwise

2 small onions, thinly sliced

1 bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced

2 red potatoes, washed well and cut into a 3/4 inch dice (does not need to be peeled)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup ricotta cheese

4 eggs

3 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)

1 tsp dried red chilli flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Spread the seeded and quartered bell pepper slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.  Heat under a broiler until the skin is blistered and charred and the peppers are mostly cooked through (15 to 20 minutes).  Remove from the oven.  Place the bell pepper pieces in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  After about 15 minutes, remove the plastic wrap.  The steam created in the bowl should have softened the skins.  Peel and discard the skins, chop the peppers into 1/2 inch x 1 inch strips and set aside.

2.  Saute the onions, fennel, 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in olive oil, until the fennel is just softened and the onion begins to caramelize.  Remove from heat and set aside.

3.  Place the potatoes in a microwave safe bowl, along with a 1/2 cup of water.  Microwave on high until the potatoes are just tender.  Drain the water and set aside.

4.  Prepare the egg filling just before you are ready to assemble the tart.  Beat together the 4 eggs and 1 cup of ricotta cheese, along with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, red chilli flakes and 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme.

 

To put it all together:

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Layer the onion/fennel mixture, bell peppers and potatoes in the tart shell(s).  Make sure you pour out any excess water.  Sprinkle the feta cheese on top.  Pour the egg/ricotta mixture evenly over the vegetables and feta.  Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top.

2.  Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, until the egg/ricotta filling has set and the crust is golden brown.  If the crust browns faster than the egg sets, simply crimp some aluminum foil over the crust to protect it from the heat while the egg cooks.

3.  Allow to set at room temp for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.