One of our final exams at culinary school was an improv cooking technique test based on surprise ingredients. Lucky for me, some of my favorite ingredients were present! I grabbed some of my favorites: polenta, lentils, mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, sweet potatoes, and red peppers. What I created was a polenta tower with lentil casserole, mushrooms, and onions topped with sweet potatoes and a red pepper sauce garnish.
Feel free to swap some of the ingredients in the recipe! For example, broccoli rabe mixed with roasted garlic and topped with goat or feta cheese. You can also cut them and serve as appetizers with the mushrooms and onions in this recipe or just with caramelized onions … delicious!
Polenta cakes are easy to make and very tasty! So get your creative juices on and start experimenting.
Have fun and Buon Appetito!
Pasqualina’s Baked Polenta Cakes Recipe
Yields: 4 portions. Prep time: 30 minutes. Cook Time: 2 hours
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (for bake pans)
3 cups of water
1/8 teaspoon of fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 cup polenta
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 ½ cups of organic vegetable stock
1 cup of organic green lentils
1 sprig of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cups of carrots (2 medium) – washed, peeled and cut into small dice
¾ cups of celery (2 medium stalks) – washed, cut off ends, and cut into small dice
1 cup spinach – washed and chopped
Mushrooms and Onions:
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of cremini mushrooms (approximately 6-7 mushrooms) – cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup of Portobello mushrooms (approximately 1 mushroom) – cleaned and thinly sliced
¾ cups Red onion (medium) – sauté sliced
salt and pepper to taste
3 medium size organic sweet potatoes - washed, peeled and chopped into big chunks
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon of salt
Red pepper sauce:
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into long one inch slices.
1 clove garlic - minced
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil – can add more if needed
Sea salt to taste
1 Portobello mushroom – stems removed, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut oil
pinch sea salt and black pepper
1 Tablespoon of parsley, minced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Grease 4 nonstick mini 4 inch pans with removable bottom with extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
Prepare the polenta - In a medium pot, add 3 cups of water, 1/8 teaspoon of fennel seeds and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Slowly add the polenta into the boiling water, whisking constantly until all the polenta is stirred in and there are no lumps. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking often, until polenta starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.
Spread and flatten polenta into the 4 inch pans, forming a thick crust. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
While polenta is baking, prepare the lentils. In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil and garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Add vegetable stock, lentils, and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook for another 10 minutes. Add spinach the last 2 minutes of cooking. Set aside.
In a 10-inch sauté pan heat olive oil over medium heat, Add onions, mushrooms, and salt. Cook until fork tender – approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in black pepper and stir. Set aside.
Place sweet potatoes in a large pot and fill with water until they are just covered. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce to medium-high heat and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes or until you can easily poke through them with a fork.
Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Use a potato masher to mash until smooth. Add extra virgin olive oil and salt. Loosely cover and set aside.
Let the polenta slightly cool before filling them. While the polenta is cooling off a bit, brush peppers with olive oil and season with salt on a sheet tray with parchment paper and roast in 375 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes.
Preparing the polenta: First, add the lentils, followed by a layer of the mushroom and onions mixture.
Using a pastry bag fitted with a tip, place the sweet potatoes in the pastry bag and pipe sweet potatoes onto top of the last cake.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned on top.
While the casserole is baking, add 1 clove garlic and 1 teaspoon of olive oil and peppers in a vitamix (blender) and mix until you get a creamy consistency.
Add the pepper sauce on the plate in a circular fashion. Remove the polenta from the mini pans and add onto the sauce in a plate.
Mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and add mushrooms. Let mushrooms marinate for a few minutes. Place them in a sheet pan with parchment paper and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until mushrooms are browned and edges look crispy.
Garnish with minced parsley.