Meatless Monday - Polenta as the Secret Ingredient

Corn Meal – Let us start from the very beginning It is still wintery in the South.  A mom asked me for a casserole idea on my Meatless Campaign, that did not include pasta.  I have found a number...

Corn Meal – Let us start from the very beginning
Corn Meal – Let us start from the very beginning

It is still wintery in the South.  A mom asked me for a casserole idea on my Meatless Campaign, that did not include pasta.  I have found a number of recipes using Polenta as the base.  This one, from the Atlanta’s Famous Rainbow Grocery in Decatur caught my attention to make and share.  Then, I made some adaptations for another version since my next Meatless Class will be Greek Inspired.  In cooking, a recipe is merely a set of suggestions to follow.  This week, you get two spins on one recipe.

Polenta Florentine
Polenta Florentine

Polenta Florentine

– recipe shared by the Rainbow Grocery in Atlanta, Georgia

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon of SPIKE original seasoning – See below, I did some added homework on the product for you…
  • 1 ½ cups quick cook grits
  • 16 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 x 2 pan.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring water, butter and SPIKE seasoning to a boil.
  4. Whisk in grits and keep whisking until the mixture is completely smooth.
  5. Turn off the heat and continue to whisk as the grits thicken.
  6. Taste for seasonings, adding more SPIKE if desired.
  7. Spoon the grits into the prepared baking dish.
  8. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, garlic and salt.
  9. Spread on top of the grits.
  10. Sprinkle cheese over the spinach in an even layer.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes and the mixture is heated throughout and the cheese is golden brown.
  12. Enjoy warm!

*** I also think a 15 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes, drained, might also be a good addition to this Florentine Dish.

SPIKE – Ingredients:

"From the Italian kitchens of internationally acclaimed gourmet nutritionist, Gayelord Hauser, comes this special blend of 39 flavorful herbs, vegetables and non-irradiated exotic spices with just the right amount of salt crystals.. SPIKE ORIGINAL MAGIC! adds a little magic to every meal.

It's terrific on salads, sauces, stews, meats, eggs, cottage cheese, pizzas, barbecues, vegetables, salad dressings, dips, appetizers, popcorn, tomato drinks, snacks, and main courses. SPIKE ORIGINAL MAGIC! adds great flavor, not calories!"

Greek Inspired  Polenta

Greek Inspired Polenta
Greek Inspired Polenta

Those of you who know me, know that recipes are only suggestions.  I quickly had some ideas as to how to change-up this recipe to add some flavors and again mirror the Greek theme that is on my mind.

It is rare that I will cook my polenta, grits or rice with just water these days.  I am always about layering the flavors.

Ingredients:

  • 3  cups vegetable broth
  • 1 ½  teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 ½  cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  medium onions, small dice
  • 3 – 5 garlic cloves, small dice
  • 2 teaspoons dill, dried
  • ¼ teaspoon, nutmeg, best freshly ground
  • 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces Feta cheese, crumbed
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • About 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese – optional.  This cheese addition makes this dish even more kid friendly.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray or butter an oven-proof casserole dish.
  3. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the onions for about 6 – 8 minutes. Then, add in the minced garlic and saute for another few minutes. Once this is cooked, turn off the heat and add in the defrosted spinach that you have thoroughly squeezed dry. Season with remaining salt and pepper and the dill and nutmeg. Set this mixture aside.
  4. Combine hot broth, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic powder, cornmeal, and butter in the casserole; stir well.
  5. Then add your spinach mixture to the polenta and combine.
  6. Then add in Feta and Parmesan cheeses. Combine this well. (You could keep the distinct layer of Spinach if you wanted.       I have often found that this is not as kid-friendly, so I suggest the big mix to incorporate the ingredients).
  7. Bake for about 45 – 50 minutes.
  8. Top with a Monterey Jack cheese the last 15 minutes to create a top crust.
  9. Remove from oven and allow the casserole to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
  10. Great served beside a salad or bowl of soup.