So this Meatless Monday thing is actually pretty fun! The husband and I have been trying our best to eat no meat on Mondays for quite some time now and have really loved all of the dishes I’ve prepared for it. With all of the fresh veggies and wonderful spices, we have not missed the meat at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong…we do not think we could go completely vegetarian and we know we couldn’t be vegans, but we do feel that our diet in the past has relied too heavily on meat. We’d like to get back to a time when eating meat was more of a special occasion thing and not an everyday meat lovers smorgasbord thing. Some meatless days would be healthier for us as well as our planet. This Polenta Tart with Asiago Spinach, Grilled Corn, Balsamic Mushrooms and Cherry Tomatoes was one of my most recent Meatless Monday dishes and it was so delicious, just chock full of fresh veggies, right out of the garden. I’m sure it will be in permanent meal rotation around here from now on.
As I’m certain you’ve noticed from the recipe title, this tart has a polenta crust. I love polenta and was shocked to find out that even though my husband is a cornbread fanatic, he had never tried polenta. Polenta is basically coarse ground yellow cornmeal which is cooked up like porridge or for those from the southern states, grits. It can be served as a creamy porridge, or once cooked can be cut into slices and baked, fried or grilled. Or as you can see here, formed into a tart crust. Very versatile indeed.
It was once considered to be peasant food, but now has been known to make an appearance on the menus of truly fancy-dancy dining establishments. It is mostly associated with Northern Italy. When corn was introduced in Europe in the 16th Century, that northeast part of Italy was found to have the perfect growing conditions for corn crops. Corn became the staple dish of the farm families there, much like the potato did in Ireland and Germany. Somehow polenta got a reputation for being difficult to prepare. There were rumours that involved one standing in front of a hot stove, constantly stirring that pot of polenta for 2 -3 hours and what you would get after all that was a clumpy burned mess. I don’t know how this came about. Polenta is not difficult to prepare. It takes about 40 – 45 minutes and while there is a lot of whisking as you initially sprinkle the cornmeal over the boiling liquid, after that an occasional stir will suffice. It makes for a rustic and hearty tart shell, which is able to hold up to the mountains of fresh veggies I heaped on top. Comfort food that’s also good for you. Now that’s a winner in my book!
Polenta Tart with Asiago Spinach, Grilled Corn, Balsamic Mushrooms and Cherry Tomatoes
recipe inspired by: Yeah…Immaeatthat
For the Polenta Crust:
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 1 cup coarse ground cornmeal (or polenta)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
For the Topping:
- 2 Tablespoons butter, divided
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 5 ounces fresh spinach
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- pinch of nutmeg, freshly ground
- salt and pepper to taste
- 12-14 cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup spicy grilled corn* (recipe noted below- or you can use fresh corn from the cob or if you must -frozen or canned corn)
- 1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
In a heavy bottom saucepan, ( I used my Le Creuset which I just adore! ) combine the broth and water and bring them to a boil. Stream in polenta while whisking the entire time. Add salt and continue to whisk, taking care to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent polenta from sticking or burning. You should notice that it is beginning to thicken after about 15 minutes, but continue to cook for about 15 more minutes (total of 30 minutes cooking time).
A few minutes before you have finished cooking the polenta, stir in 1/4 cup of the Asiago cheese. Whisk until melted and finally add 1 tablespoon of the butter. Whisk until the butter has melted and is incorporated. Remove from heat and allow polenta to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Scrape polenta into prepared pan. Press it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan to form the crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
While crust is baking, prepare the topping. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan and add the mushrooms. Season with a pinch or so of salt and cook until softened, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add 1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and cook until liquid is mostly gone for another 5 minutes or so. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add remaining tablespoon of butter to pan and melt over medium high heat. Add onion and saute for 6 – 7 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minutes more. Place the spinach in the pan and stir until wilted. Add pinch of nutmeg and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Gently stir mixture until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat.
Cover polenta crust with spinach mixture. Scatter balsamic mushrooms, grilled corn and halved cherry tomatoes over the spinach. Sprinkle Asiago cheese over the top. Return tart to the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove sides of pan. Serve warm.
Spicy Grilled Corn
- 3-4 ears of fresh corn in husk
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp light brown sugar
- ¼ tsp chili powder
Combine olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt, brown sugar and chili powder in small bowl and whisk together.
Peel back the corn husks, discarding all but a couple inner layers. Remove corn silk, then baste with dressing, and recover corn with remaining husk.
Grill on med-high for 20-25 minutes, turning 3-4 times during cooking time.
Remove the corn from grill and allow to cool a few minutes. Once it has cooled enough to handle, cut off stem end, place the flat cut end on bottom of large bowl, and use a corn zipper to strip the kernels from the cob. Or if you don’t have a zipper, run a small sharp knife down the length of the cob, slicing off kernels.
Garden Fresh Asiago Polenta Tart brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )