Thursday, December 1, 2011

Polenta Pie

Red and green and white, this is a dish in holiday colors.  And, since we've now entered the month of December and with the timely arrival of a snowstorm today, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around these parts.  Thus, my mind is turning toward what a flurry of activity this month becomes. 

Must. Slow. Down. And. Be. More. Intentional.   

I'm not going to say that this Italian style comfort food is going to solve all your challenges this month, but it is certainly a great one to keep in your back pocket--rounds of precooked, packaged polenta layered with garlicky sauteed spinach and creamy goat cheese then topped with zesty tomato sauce and final crunch of pine nuts.  All the ingredients can be kept on hand to pull out as an elegant dish for some impromptu entertaining or for a quick and easy meal on a night in between the Open Houses, Caroling, Sledding, Shopping, Decorating etc. 

And, can I just share that today I was struck anew at the awe and wonder of Christmas?  Emmanuel, God with us.  Wow. Wow. Wow.  I pray I can pause and be more reflective on that this holiday season... 

Polenta Pie
olive oil, several tablespoons
2 tubes packaged precooked polenta
1 6 ounce bag fresh spinach leaves
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 4-ounce log goat cheese
1 large jar favorite spaghetti sauce 
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
fresh basil leaves for garnish (totally optional since fresh basil is a bit more scarce in the winter)

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large skillet, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.  Slice polenta into rounds and brown in the olive oil, a couple minutes on each side, doing it in batches if necessary.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Scrape out pan and heat an additional tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat.  Saute onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, a few minutes. 
Add spinach and saute until wilted and liquid is evaporated, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Grease a 2 quart baking dish, and layer half the polenta rounds in bottom of dish.  Spread sauteed spinach in an even layer on top of polenta.  Crumble 2/3 of goat cheese and sprinkle evenly over spinach layer.  Top with remaining polenta rounds and pour spaghetti sauce over top layer of polenta.  Sprinkle remaining goat cheese crumbles and pine nuts evenly over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbling.  Garnish with fresh basil leaves to "up" the red, green and white factor, if desired.   

The original recipe author suggests serving with a tossed green salad and bottle of Chianti. : )

Slightly adapted from Mary at Lakewinds Grocery Store

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