Sunday, June 28, 2009

Polenta pesto zucchini casserole recipe (or at least a methodology)

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Every year, the city of Santa Monica has a big fireworks show on the Saturday before the 4th of July. When we're in town we always go, and this year we were lucky enough to be invited to a festive potluck around the corner before the fireworks. I can never keep track of exactly who in Sue and Paul's house is or is not eating meat, but I think the answer right now is no one - which is why I brought a vegetarian dish.

I had some leftover polenta in the house, which, when I made it, I'd mixed with some homemade pesto sauce. I picked some basil and a few zucchini from the garden. My son thinly sliced a few of the small sweet bell peppers he and his brother like to snack on. I chiffonaded (is that a verb?) the basil. Somehow I knew it would all go together.

I sliced the zucchini thinly on a mandoline (come to think of it, we could have used the mandoline for the peppers, too - ah, but then the son wouldn't have had the chance to practice his knife skills). Then I sprinkled them with a little salt and left them to sit for 20 minutes, to draw out some of the water.

I sprayed a baking dish with cooking spray. Then I started layering. Chunks of polenta, which I crumbled with my fingers as I dropped it in. Zucchini. Peppers. A sprinkle of basil. A shower of shredded mozzarella cheese. A few dollops of goat cheese. Salt and pepper. And start again.

I think I made everything come out evenly for three rounds. I finished with the shredded cheese, although by that time I had run out of mozzarella and was using a Mexican shredded blend. I sprinkled it all with olive oil, popped it into a 350-degree oven, and baked it about 45 minutes.

I suppose that if the polenta had been in neat rectangles instead of uneven clumps, it might have looked more like lasagne. But as it was, it had a sort of rustic look. And it went quite quickly on the buffet. In fact, I only got the photo above because when I realized how fast it was disappearing I hijacked the plate of a complete stranger before he took a bite. Thanks, Michael (I think that was your name!).

I'm becoming a bigger fan of polenta. Gluten-free, right? It's always good to have a few gluten-free recipes in the hole for when those celiacs come around.

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