If you’re looking for a hearty meal that takes advantage of your garden gleanings, a simple ratatouille ladled over homemade polenta from locally grown ingredients could be just the recipe you’re looking for. The polenta should be made the previous day, making dinner prep even easier. Bear in mind that recipes for ratatouille can vary greatly depending on your vegetable preferences, the season and your general mood. The recipe below should be looked at merely as a general guide and not a strict “recipe.” You cannot mess this up so have fun and use what’s around!
- 2 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and cut from cob
- 2 cups coarse-ground corn meal
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 stick butter, plus more for greasing pan
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh herbs like parsley, savory, oregano, thyme, rosemary (optional)
In large saucepan or stockpot over high heat, bring water, milk and butter, as well as a few pinches of salt and pepper, to boil. Be sure to leave lots of room to stir vigorously without making a mess or burning yourself.
When mixture has reached rolling boil, slowly add corn meal in steady stream, carefully whisking to avoid lumps. Switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon as mixture begins to thicken. When it begins to bubble, turn heat to low and stir in cut corn. At this point, your mixture should be consistency of thin oatmeal. If too thick, add additional water or milk. Keep mixture hot but not bubbling, adding water if needed, for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent scorching bottom of pan.
While polenta is simmering, liberally butter 9-by-13-inch Pyrex baking pan.
After 35 to 45 minutes have passed, check texture of polenta. It should have thickened significantly and should be able to be scooped up with a spoon. If not, return to heat until it has reached this stage. If sufficiently thick, stir in grated cheese and any fresh herbs. Transfer mixture to your greased pan, and smooth out top with rubber spatula. The polenta should be about 1 inch thick.
Let polenta cool on countertop, then cover and allow to set up in refrigerator overnight.
The next day, flip polenta out onto a cutting board and cut into triangles, rounds or squares. (You can also use a cookie cutter you think would add to your presentation.) Place pieces on cookie sheet with a silicone mat or lightly oiled parchment. Brush with melted butter or olive oil.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and toast polenta pieces thoroughly before serving, about 15 to 20 minutes. They should be browned on the edges and starting to get crispy from the oil or butter.
They can go into the oven with the ratatouille if that’s how you’re serving them. Reserve all of the leftover polenta for another use.
- 1 large eggplant (or several small ones)
- 1 zucchini
- 1 yellow squash
- 2 or 3 fresh tomatoes
- 1 small yellow onion
- handful of whole button mushrooms
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 or 3 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 T. herbs de Provence
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- rumbled feta or goat cheese, freshly torn basil and roughly chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut all vegetables into pieces anywhere from a medium dice to very large chunks, depending on how rustic you’d like them to be. (I personally like them on the larger side.) The mushrooms can stay whole.
Place vegetables into large bowl and toss with a generous amount of salt and pepper, garlic, herbs de Provence, and at 1/2 cup olive oil. If you like olive oil, you can certainly add it excessively to this dish.
Spread the veggies evenly into a large roasting pan or two large cookie sheets. Avoid layering them too much, or else they will steam and get mushy. (This mixture is also great for grilling on skewers.) Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until vegetables are brown and crispy. If not serving immediately, this mixture holds very well in a 200 degree F oven for up to two hours.
When serving with the polenta, place a piece of the toasted polenta on a warm plate, place some of the warm ratatouille over it, and garnish heavily with some feta or crumbled goat cheese and lots of fresh herbs. This is a quintessential late summer dish and just the thing to help use up that glut of garden veggies your friends and neighbors keep dropping off.