I seem to buy an average of one new cookbook a week, and the sad thing is, I rarely use them. I keep piles of them beside my bed, on my desk, and next to my chair in the den, and I often glance through them (especially if there are pretty pictures) looking for inspiration, but I rarely just pick one up and follow a recipe.
But I was looking through my newest acquisition, Verdura: Vegetables Italian Style by Viana La Place, when a recipe caught my eye: Grilled Skewered Vegetables. It wasn’t that it was innovative or different; it was simply that I had all the ingredients on-hand, and the author suggested serving it with polenta. Since I’ve recently learned a fast and easy way to make polenta in the microwave, I’ve been looking for ways to use it.
Both recipes are simple and work well together. Start your vegetables first, so they can be marinating while the polenta is chilling. You’ll need to get this started early in the day, but it comes together quickly at dinnertime. You can even prepare the polenta the day before, but don’t let the vegetables sit that long or they won’t be fresh. Both recipes make about 4 servings.
Grilled Skewered Vegetables
(adapted from Verdura)
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
3 medium zucchini
8-10 shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound butternut squash
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 large garlic cloves, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
olive oil spray (I use a Misto sprayer with extra virgin)
Cut the peppers and zucchini into 1-inch chunks. Trim the stems off of the mushrooms and slice them in half. Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1-inch chunks.
Put the vegetables into a bowl and spray lightly with the olive oil. Add all the remaining ingredients, toss, and let stand for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven broiler. Put the vegetables onto skewers, alternating ingredients. Place the skewers across a baking dish so that the skewer touches the sides, but the vegetables do not touch the dish (I used an 11X9-inch dish). Place under the broiler, turning often, and cooking until the vegetables are tender. Watch carefully so that they don’t burn!
Quick Microwave Polenta
Okay, I know some of you have a prejudice against the microwave, but let me tell you, it’s a wonderful tool for making polenta that doesn’t have to be stirred constantly–and doesn’t have lumps! This was adapted from a recipe I found on the internet.
2 cups water
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. yellow cornmeal (use yellow–it’s healthier than white)
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil or margarine (optional)
generous grating of black pepper
basil, oregano, or other herbs (optional and to taste)
Put the water, cornmeal, and salt into a large microwavable casserole dish or 1-quart measure. Cook at full power for 6 minutes. Stir well and cook again at high power for 4 more minutes. Remove from the microwave, stir in the optional oil or margarine, the pepper, and any optional herbs you’d like. Stir well.
Oil a loaf pan or any container that holds about 2 cups. (I’ve done this in a plastic cup to make tubular polenta.) Pour in the polenta and smooth over the top. Refrigerate until chilled and solid. Remove from the pan and slice about 1/2-inch thick. Brown in a lightly-oiled non-stick pan.
Serve the polenta and the grilled veggies with an optional sprinkling of balsamic vinegar. I rounded out this meal with Cannellini Beans with Fresh Basil and Oregano. It was all delicious, but mmmm, that roasted butternut squash!