Lately I’ve been eating a lot of cauliflower. Between the bumper crop from the front yard and the very cheap and super delicious cauli’s at the farmers market, we’ve eaten it at least once if not twice a week. Cauliflower is incredibly versatile, you can boil it, steam it, mash it up as an alternative to rice, mix it with cheese and bake or you can roast it. When roasted in a little olive oil, cauliflower takes on a whole new flavour profile, it is deliciously nutty and I reckon even hardened cauli haters would find this method of preparation appealing.
This dish came about after a hard day out in the garden, pruning and prepping beds for spring planting. Paul was cleaning gutters and generally getting the yard looking less like a junk yard and more like something we can actually entertain in. It was hard work and we were both stuffed, I had next to no inspiration when it came to making dinner and we considered ordering a pizza. I ended up making this instead and was quite pleased with the results. I prepared the polenta a couple of hours before we were ready to eat and then I popped the vegies in to roast when our tummies started to grumble.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy, throw together meal, this is probably not it. It’s not that it’s labour intensive, it’s pretty straightforward; prep and then walk away while the oven works its magic, but you do have to get started a couple of hours before you sit down to eat. Polenta is wonderfully rich and creamy and you can eat it straight out of the pan a bit like mashed potato but I really like making it ahead and letting it set for a couple of hours before lightly frying to give it a crispy skin. Because the nights are still pretty chilly I usually put the pan outside to cool (with a tea towel over the top) and when it’s cooled down I pop it in the fridge to set.
If you wanted to make this one night after work then I’d recommend prepping the polenta the night before so all you’ll need to do is put your vegies on to roast. The roast vegies are actually pretty delicious on their own, mixed with the rocket, dressing and parmesan it would make a delicious lunch or light dinner so if you’re short on time skip the polenta altogether!
Mushroom & Olive Polenta with Roast Vegetable Salad
Serves: 2 (with some leftover polenta slices)
1/2 cup polenta
2 cups water
splash of milk
1/4 cup mozzarella
1 tspn salt
cracked black pepper to taste
big handful of brown mushrooms, chopped into small chunks
10 kalamata olives, pitted and minced
handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
5-6 florets of cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
1 tspn minced garlic
1 tspn dried oregano
3 tbspns olive oil
2 tspns basil pesto (I just used some from a jar)
1 tbspn balsamic vinegar
1 tbspn olive oil
30g parmesan cheese
2 handfuls of rocket, rinsed and lightly chopped
Prepare the polenta:
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil.
While you are waiting for the water to boil, heat a splash of olive oil in a medium skillet over a low to medium flame.
Lightly sauté mushrooms for a couple of minutes, then add about a tbspn of balsamic vinegar.
Mix well and continue to cook until moisture has been absorbed and mushrooms are soft. Set aside.
Once the water has boiled add the polenta very slowly, stirring the whole time to avoid lumps.
Stir for 5-10 minutes, depending on the type of polenta.
Add a splash of milk and 1/2 tspn salt.
Keep stirring and when the polenta starts to look creamy and comes away from the sides, add mozzarella cheese and stir until cheese has melted.
Turn off the heat and mix through mushrooms, olives and parsley. Check seasoning and if necessary add a little extra salt and pepper to taste.
In a large heat-proof container (I use a ceramic lasagna dish), pour out polenta and smooth down with the back of a spoon. Leave to cool and set for at least two hours in the fridge or overnight if possible.
Prepare veggies & beans:
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees c.
Prepare veggies: cut up cauliflower, rinse tomatoes (leave whole), rinse beans and dry well – I dry the beans using a salad spinner and then pat them dry with paper towel.
This is so that they become crispy in the oven.
In a large roasting pan add 3 tbspns olive oil and return to the oven to heat up – about 5-10 minutes.
In a large bowl combine beans, cauli, tomatoes and garlic.
Carefully remove pan from oven, (the oil will be very hot so please be careful) and pour in veggies and beans. They will fry immediately upon hitting the oil. Give the pan a shake and put back in the oven for 30-40 minutes until cauli has browned and tomatoes are soft and starting to caramelise.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly while you prepare the rocket and dressing.
Combine vinegar, oil and pesto in a small jar and put the lid on tightly. Give it a good shake.
To the roasting pan add rocket, about a tbspn of the dressing and some grated parmesan. Mix well and taste. If necessary add a little more dressing.
Cut polenta into single serves. Heat up some butter or oil in a large skillet over a medium flame and then place the polenta in the skillet. Leave it there for about 3-4 minutes, resist the urge to move it, just let it sit and fry. After 4 minutes, check the progress.
Once the polenta has started to brown and crisp up, use your spatula to gently flip.
Leave for another 4 minutes.
To serve, place cooked polenta on a plate. Top with roasted vegie salad.