All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015
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Once again, I created a dish out of an effort to use what I had on hand and, I must admit, I am quite delighted. I had a bag of polenta from the bulk section at Lassen’s (a store that is a wonderland of healthy foods but 1) mixes meat & vegan items in the same cases & it can get confusing and 2) is SO FUCKING claustrophobic that I am in a mild panic the whole time I am there). I also had some roasted beets I needed to use. Voila!
I am a huge fan of both polenta & grits (grits being the same thing, really, but just not as finely ground). I especially like them creamy & soft – like a porridge. Most polenta & grits recipes have cheese in them & you can certainly add cheese but this didn’t need it. AND – I cooked the polenta in my slow cooker while I went spinning this morning! I came home, exhausted, to a vat of steaming, creamy polenta. Win win!
If you are not vegan, some crumbled goat cheese on this would be divine! Actually – they make lots of vegan cheeses that are like goat cheese or Boursin & a little bit of one of those might be a nice addition to this dish. If you don’t like or don’t have walnuts – I think pistachios would be better, anyway – I just didn’t have any. Oh – and polenta is naturally gluten-free. This is a very low fat recipe but is warm & hearty & great for winter weather. If you really want to get all cold-weather crazy – stir a small can of pumpkin puree into the polenta. Yuuuum!
I used this balsamic glaze (below) but a balsamic reduction is VERY easy to make.
Simply boil a nice balsamic until it reduces by about 50-75% and has a thick syrupy texture. It really does reduce a LOT so – if it reduces to too little for your pizza – just boil down some more. Be careful not to burn it! I used about a tablespoon of the reduction on this polenta.
Vegan Creamy Polenta Bowl with Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts, Thyme & Balsamic Glaze
This makes enough polenta to feed 4 easily. The quantity of the toppings is up to you.
2 cups dry polenta
8 cups vegetable stock
Walnuts (or pistachios)
Fresh thyme removed from stems
Balsamic glaze (see recipe above if you want to make it yourself)
(Adding vegan goat cheese – or any other very soft cheese) at the end with the beets & nuts would take this to the next level. Fried sage – in place of the thyme – might also be nice.)
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
I cooked my polenta in a slow cooker by simply putting the polenta & stock in there, setting it on high (cover on) and two hours later – I had a lot of creamy goodness. If it gets too thick, add more water or stock. If it is too thin – cook a bit longer (taking the top off accelerates this process).
OR – cook your polenta according to the package (using stock rather than water). Stove top – this should take 30-40 minutes.
Wrap beets well in foil. You might want to drizzle a bit of olive oil in there but that is not necessary. Place on a baking sheet and bake until beets are slightly soft to the touch, 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on their size. Cool beets and then rub off skins (use a paring knife for tough spots).
Toast the nuts in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes – stirring frequently so they do not burn. Set aside.
Now – assemble your bowls. Spoon in the polenta, top with beets & nuts & a drizzle of balsamic glaze & some thyme leaves. Add cheese – if you are using some. I did not.