A few days ago I picked up an organic eggplant at the grocery store. I was thrilled since eggplant is really a summer crop, and one of Yummy Hubby's favorite foods. I should have known better. I had little time or energy to make dinner that night so I planned on baking slices of the eggplant with some sliced purchased polenta for an easy, healthy, one-dish dinner. When I cut into my off-season eggplant at 5:30 my dinner plan was foiled. The eggplant was completely brown inside. Wah wah waaaaah... After a quick pout I decided to improvise. We quickly cooked up some kale with garlic and grabbed some meatless meatballs from the freezer to use over our polenta. The result was an incredibly easy, healthy, and comforting weeknight dinner. It's warm and bubbly like a lasagna, but with much less work. Even the girls loved the kale covered in red sauce and cheese. Eggplant crisis averted.
One of my favorite things about this "recipe" is that it is completely customizable. Use any vegetables you happen to have in your fridge. In the summer you could use grilled slices of zucchini, eggplant, or bell pepper. In the winter this kale version is my favorite. In a pinch you could even use a jar of marinara instead of making the sauce yourself.
While this isn't my fanciest recipe or most beautiful photos, it is one your family will love. From one busy kitchen to another.
P.S. If it's a sweet treat you're looking for today, head over to one of my favorite blogs, Serenity Now, where Amanda is sharing one of my all-time favorite holiday cookie recipes.
Baked Polenta and Vegetable Parmesan
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
26 ounces chopped tomatoes in their juices (I like Pomi)
1/4 cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 bunch kale, center stems removed and roughly chopped (or grilled or roasted sliced eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.)
1 (18-ounce) package precooked polenta (such as San Gennaro brand, available at most grocery stores)
16 ounces cooked meatballs (I used "meatless" soy meatballs, but be sure they are gluten-free if you're on a GF diet).
1/3 cup shredded Italian cheeses such as Mozzarella or Parmesan (I used a vegan cheese)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the tomatoes, spices, and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon oil and garlic in a large frying pan over medium low heat. Add the chopped kale and a pinch of salt and saute until wilted and softened, about 5 minutes.
Cut the polenta into 10 rounds. Arrange 9 slices on the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish, cutting the remaining round to fill in gaps. Top with meatballs, kale (or other cooked vegetables), and tomato sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake until cheese has melted, about 20 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley.