Saturday, March 5, 2011

Polenta Lasagna

Polenta Lasagna-from Moosewood New Classics

4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups cornmeal

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic cloves
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoons dried marjoram
1/2dried oregano
1 cup chopped red bell peppers
3 cups crushed tomatoes with juice (28-ounce can)
1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup Neufchatel or cream cheese
1 large egg
2 cups rinsed, stemmed and chopped Swiss chard, kale, or spinach
1 1/2 cups grated mild provolone
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk the cornmeal into the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and let the polenta simmer, stirring often, until thick but pourable (see note). Pour the polenta into a lightly oiled baking sheet. Use a lightly oil spatula to spread it 1/2 inch thick or less. Refrigerate.

Warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat and saute the onions for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, basil marjoram, oregano and bell peppers and saute 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and, if using, the wine. Bring to a simmer and add the tomato paste, salt, and black pepper. Simmer on low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

Soften the cram cheese in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Lightly beat the egg and stir it into the softened cheese. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet or saucepan and saute the greens until tender. Remove from heat and set aside. Remove the polenta from the refrigerator and cut into manageable 4 x 6 inch pieces that will fit together to make single layer in your baking pan; a few gaps don't matter.

To assemble the lasagna, spread a third of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking pan and top with a later of polenta. Add the sauteed greens to the remaining sauce and spread half of it on the polenta. Spread the softened cream cheese over the sauce and top with the provolone. Make a final layer of polenta and top with the rest of the sauce. Dust the Parmesan cheese evenly over all.

Cover the baking dish and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: for this dish, make a relatively stiff polenta. The amount of water needed and the cooking time will depend on the cornmeal used. Finely ground cornmeal such as polenta cornmeal cooks quickly and is excellent for this dish. Coarsely ground and stone-ground cornmeals may need to simmer for up to 45 minutes. Any cornmeal may need additional water; start with the amount given and add more if the polenta becomes too thick.

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