I have a lot of cookbooks. No, really, I think it might actually be a problem. When I’m bored, I might read a book, but I’m even more likely to read a cookbook. One of my cookbooks is the vegetarian edition of the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast series. It’s a pretty good cookbook, short and sweet, organized in an appealing way, and definitely a good starter cookbook since the recipes are simple and easy to follow. But I haven’t made many of the recipes from it (though my roommate last year swore by it).
Now that it’s zucchini and squash season, my mind keeps going back to this one recipe from this cookbook – polenta with vegetable ragout. One thing that always bothered me about the recipe from the cookbook is that the ragout, which has no real solid texture, is served over creamy polenta. Where’s the crunch? What do I bite into? What could I put in there to give me that solid?
|Tis the season....for squash!|
Summer Vegetable Ragout with Crispy Polenta Rounds
4 tbls olive oil, divided
2 medium shallots, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 eggplant, quartered and sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, julienned
2 zucchini, sliced thinly
2 yellow squash, sliced thinly
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 cup basil, slivered
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, if you like heat)
2 logs of prepared polenta, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds (about 12 rounds for each log)
Salt and pepper to taste
*This recipe is easy to cut in half. Instead of a regular eggplant, use a Chinese eggplant or two (depending on how much you like eggplant). The reason why I made such a large batch is because I had a large, regular eggplant and I could not find any Chinese ones, and eggplants don’t store well once they’ve been cut in to, so I upped the rest of the recipe. It’s ok, because I now have dinner for the week!
1. Cut up all the veggies! This is the most time consuming, hands-on part of the recipe. Make the slices of squash, zucchini, and eggplant as thin and as uniform as possible (if you have a mandolin, now would be the time to use it). The idea is to have the slices be the same size and cook at the same rate. If you’re using a regular eggplant, you should also halve or quarter the slices to get them down to the same size as the other slices.
2. Heat a large pan on the stove. Add 1 tablespoon of oil into the hot pan, wait a few seconds, then add the shallots and garlic. Sauté for a minute, then add the zucchini and yellow squash slices. Sauté for a few minutes, then add the eggplant (they cook a little faster). Let the veggies cook until they begin to soften (the more veggies you have in there, the longer it will take), stirring gently every few minutes.
3. When the vegetables have softened, mix in the canned tomatoes, broth, basil, and red pepper, and let the ragout continue to cook over low heat for another few minutes, or until your polenta rounds are done. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. While the ragout cooks, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick skillet on high heat. When the oil is hot, place as many polenta rounds as you can fit in the pan. Now step away from the stove. Polenta has a high water content, so it tends to pop a bit. The first side will take longer to brown, but when it looks nice and crispy and brown, flip it over. The second side will go much quicker. When the polenta is done, pat it briefly with a paper towel, transfer it onto a cooling rack, and hit it with just a bit of salt for flavor. If you’re not serving it immediately, place the cooling rack on a baking sheet and keep it in a warm oven so it can stay crispy.
5. Assemble your dishes! For individual plating, put down 3 polenta rounds per plate and top with heaping spoonfuls of ragout. Serve immediately (so the polenta is still crispy), and enjoy!