Two weeks ago, I made meatloaf and Brian and I spent pretty much all week eating it (it didn’t occur to me until we’d finished it that I could’ve frozen some). Last week we were on vacation and so I didn’t cook. I felt like I hadn’t been in the kitchen in forever. And I missed it.
I made up for my absence last night with a surprisingly delicious casserole I adapted from a recipe for Polenta and Onion Casserole with Fennel Seed and Soy Mozzarella that was in The Complete Vegan Cookbook: Over 200 Tantalizing Recipes, Plus Plenty of Kitchen Wisdom for Beginners and Experienced Cooks by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay.
Things you should know before making this recipe:
1) It’s from a vegan cookbook, but my adaptation is not vegan. Simple solution: substitute soy mozzarella for the regular mozzarella cheese (that’s what the original recipe called for, but I had the cheese already and I can’t bring myself to eat soy cheese yet).
2) Making this dish requires 2 burners and the oven. But it’s worth it. So worth it.
3) As incredibly delicious as this dish is, it’s not the prettiest thing ever once you serve it. I served it with a spoon and ate it out of a bowl–it’s pretty much mush. But the flavor is amazing and comforting.
Tomato, Onion and Polenta Casserole
- 2 teaspoons fennel seed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- Olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 red onions chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 28 oz can whole tomatoes do not drain!
- 2 tablespoons capers drained
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- black pepper
- 1 and 1/2 cups uncooked polenta coarse ground cornmeal
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese or more to taste
- Use a spice grinder to combine the fennel seed and chili flakes.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the fennel seed and chili flake mixture and minced garlic to the oil and stir to combine for about a minute.
- Add the onions and salt to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft.
- Add the capers and the tomatoes with their juice to the skillet. After the mixture reaches a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up large pieces of tomato.
- While that cooks, preheat the oven to 375º. Grease a 3 quart casserole dish with olive oil.
- In a saucepan, combine 4 cups of water, garlic powder and a sprinkle of black pepper. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce the temperature to medium and add the polenta in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the polenta is thick (normal polenta consistency, this takes a few minutes). Whisk in 1/2 cup of cold water and return the polenta to bubbling.
- Stir in a 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese to the polenta. Next, pour the polenta into the greased casserole dish. Distribute the polenta evenly in the dish. Pour the onion and tomato mixture on top and cover with the remaining mozzarella.
- Bake for 20 minutes and cool before serving.
On a unrelated note for my local readers, I just found about about this cool event happening in Williamstown and North Adams, Massachusetts next month. The Farm Film Feast is March 10-14 and will feature showings and discussion on “a dozen documentary films about our food: Who produces it, how it reaches us, and how it affects our health, our environment, and our local and global communities.” I’m not sure which events we’ll be attending (March still seems so far away!) but I’m really excited about it.
Enjoy what remains of the weekend!