Saturday, August 7, 2010

Roasted Eggplant Spread on Polenta Rounds




Sure, it’s more fun to say Baba Ganoush, but you’ll get over it.
Since it’s technically not Baba Ganoush without tahini, this is simply called Roasted Eggplant Spread. But who needs tahini when you’ve got all these luscious roasted veggies? Granted, if it were up to me, I’d call it Bubba Ganoush since I’m from Texas. But then I already covered that in my last post.

This earthy-sweet spread is essentially roasted eggplant, red peppers, red onion and garlic that you put in a food processor with a dab of tomato paste. The easy, hard-to-screw-up Ina Garten recipe never fails to please both me and a crowd. And judging by how many servings I can eat, sometimes I am the crowd. (I'm thinking my portion-control issues may stem from a traumatic childhood math test. Yeah, let’s go with that.)

I usually serve this spread with my Cheater’s Lavash Crackers, but for an L.A. food blogger's meet-up, I got all show-offey ambitious and presented it on round pillows of polenta. You can see my stiff competition here at the terrific blog, Cook and Be Merry.

I would avoid buying those packaged tubes of polenta since they don't taste very fresh, and it's easy enough to make your own rounds. I formed these with a biscuit cutter, but the clever Andrea, of Fork, Fingers, Chopsticks, shows you how to make your own tube in a can. I actually kind of enjoyed this biscuit-cutter polenta activity. In fact, it was only a corn cob away from being fun. But then I don’t get out of the kitchen much.

Eggplant Recipe (by Ina Garten)

1 medium eggplant

2 red bell peppers, seeded

1 red onion, peeled

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons good olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Fresh basil leaves and pine nuts for garnish (my personal addition)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking. Cool slightly.

Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the tomato paste, and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for salt and pepper.

Yield 6 to 8 servings

Polenta Rounds

8 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups polenta

3 tablespoons butter

½ cup of asiago cheese

In a heavy saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil and gradually whisk in cornmeal. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until very thick, about 15 minutes. Towards the end, add the butter and cheese. When melted, pour polenta into a 9 x 13 glass pan so the polenta is about 1 ½ - 2 inches deep. There will still be more polenta left, so put the rest in a smaller pan (just eyeball one that will fit). Let polenta cool completely, then refrigerate until firm.

Using a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter, cut out rounds (try to maximize the number by cutting them out close to each other). Place the rounds in a 400º oven and bake until firmer and a bit crunchy. The refrigeration and oven steps are optional if you want a softer polenta and to serve it sooner. It can be served warm or at room temperature. Garnish each polenta and eggplant round with a small basil leaf and a couple of pine nuts.

Makes 20+ rounds with spread. (In other words, there's polenty to go a round.)


8 comments:

  1. Great pictures! And, thanks for the mention on the polenta chubs. So easy to make and set polenta that I hope your readers try it. Although, I would be tempted to eat this recipe as soft polenta with that gorgeous eggplant topping.

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  2. Your Polenta Rounds with Egg Plant Topping were definitely Best in Show, Adair, on that beautiful blue plate. I love polenta and these tasted so delicious. Great photos!

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  3. That eggplant looks delicious! And I especially like that pine nut garnish. ;-)

    [K]

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  4. I am so bummed I missed these! They look fantastic.

    I can go with the math test trauma. I blame my food issues on the nuns from grade school. I know, seemingly unrelated but it lets me sleep at night.

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  5. Adair, I agree homemade polenta is a cinch to make & it does taste so much better than that packaged stuff. I love cutting all different kinds of shapes out of mine. From flowers to hearts we have fun with our firm polenta. You eggplant with roasted veggies is a great topper!

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  6. I always felt that polenta and eggplant were a perfect match! You have been reading my mind! Love these and I could be the crowd too! :))

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  7. Helping us get our serving of veggies in for the day, huh? Much appreciated! The asiago cheese in the polenta is a nice touch.

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  8. I've been making something similar for a while now. We love the vegetarian aspect of it and the ability to throw in whatever we have languishing in the crisper. I've never put cheese into my polenta trying to avoid the additional calories but the asiago sounds like a nice change.
    Thanks for the inspiration and great pictures.

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