I was running errands the other day when I got a sudden craving for warm and creamy polenta. I figured it must be the sudden chill that's in the air every morning, that's signaling cool weather and warm comfort foods are just around the corner. Fall is an amazing time of year for weather and produce in the Pacific NW. The days are sunny and warm, the leaves just begin to turn shades of gold and orange, and the air starts to feel crisp, but the vegetables available seem to straddle two seasons, inspiring me to find recipes I love.
When I poked around the kitchen I managed to round up some late-season tomatoes and the last of my zucchini for a great baked polenta dish. I very rarely make polenta, but I always keep some on hand, because it's pretty easy, especially if you use the quick cooking variety. Don't use the slice-and-bake kind, it's not the same—what you save in time, you sacrifice in flavor.
2 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 cup polenta
2 tablespoons Parmesan
1 tablespoon rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups zucchini, sliced 14" thick then quartered
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup feta
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a 9x13 casserole dish and set aside.
Bring the water or vegetable broth to a boil. Slowly stir in the polenta. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan, rosemary, oregano, and a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.
In a large pan, heat the oil, then add in the zucchini and tomatoes. Cook just until the zucchini is beginning to soften, then splash in a bit of balsamic vinegar and remove from heat.
Place half the polenta mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer on top of that half the tomato mixture and half the feta. Repeat with remaining polenta and tomato mixture. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until everything is heated through and the edges are slightly golden. Top with fresh basil and serve immediately.