A rather elegant stack of food, which is deceptively simple to prepare.
Polenta Stacks with Portobellos, Eggplant (or Aubergine) and Basil Cream. It's a mouthful, isn't it? Try eating it—I bet you can't without taking it apart.
It's easier to prepare if you take it in stages, too. Let's dissect:
First, a pool of Cabernet Tomato Sauce (deceptively simple to make with a jar of ready-made pasta sauce and a bottle of Cab). Then a round of polenta. Next, some Tofu Spinach filling, and then a layer of grilled eggplant. Top that with another round of polenta, repeating the sequence until you cap it off with a grilled portobello mushroom.
But before you serve, you must drizzle a healthy portion of Basil Cream sauce, and then garnish with some snipped basil.
Sounds complicated, right? There are a lot of components to this recipe, but the good thing is, most of them can be prepared ahead, making this an ideal meal for a dinner party. I served it to my family, for my daughter's last night at home before she headed back to the US. Alongside, I served some lima beans prepared like this. And the rest of the Cabernet, of course.
A lovely meal.
Here's how, in easy stages:
Polenta Stacks with Portobellos, Eggplant, and Basil Cream
Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Slowly pour in 1 1/4 cups polenta, stirring with a wooden spoon or wire whisk. Keep stirring almost constantly for 15-20 minutes (unless you're using quick polenta, in which case follow the directions). The mixture should be very thick and pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Pour the mixture into a large pan, big enough to get twelve 2.5 inch rounds. I used a 10 inch by 14 inch cookie sheet, and spread the mixture to within a couple inches of the far side. A 9x13 inch casserole pan should do the trick.
Let the polenta sit for an hour or more until it's set. When it's firm, you can cut rounds using a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter, approximately 3 inches diameter. Twelve 1/2 inch thick rounds is what you need, unless you want to make fewer than six polenta stacks.
Grill the cut rounds: Heat a ridged grill pan that's been sprayed with olive oil over high heat. Place the rounds in the pan and grill for 5 minutes on each side, until dark grill marks appear. Alternatively, you can grill the rounds over a barbecue. They should be firm enough that they won't break up.
(If you don't have a ridged grill pan, you can use a non-stick pan that's been coated with olive oil. You won't get the grill marks, but that's okay.)
Set the rounds aside while you prepare the rest.
1/2 cup cashews, ground
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon light miso
3/4 cup water
salt, to taste
Combine the cashews, basil, lemon juice, and miso in a food processor. Process until smooth. Slowly pour in the water and combine thoroughly. Add salt to taste (a few shakes) and remove the mixture to a small bowl until ready to use.
Tofu Spinach Filling:
3/4 lb tofu
1/2 cup soy cream cheeze (Tofutti brand)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup thawed frozen chopped spinach (or you can use fresh, from one bunch cooked and chopped)
1/4 cup vegan parmesan-style cheeze
Drain the spinach and blot it with several paper towels to absorb the excess water.
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Process until the mixture is combined.
Cabernet Tomato Sauce:
1 1/2 cups prepared commercial pasta sauce
1/2 cup Cabernet or other red wine
In a medium saucepan, bring tomato sauce to a boil; reduce heat. Add the Cabernet and let the mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the wine has boiled off.
Set aside until ready to serve.
Eggplant and Portobello:
1 large eggplant (aubergine)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon each: dried basil and oregano
6 portobello mushrooms
Prepare the eggplant by cutting into 1/4 inch slices. Lay on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let the eggplant sweat for 15-20 minutes, then blot with paper towels.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and the basil and oregano. With a pastry brush, spread the olive oil mixture on the eggplant slices and mushrooms.
Over a charcoal barbecue grill with the fire giving off medium heat, grill the eggplant and mushrooms until they're tender. Set aside on a plate.
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
In a casserole dish that will hold 6 stacks, assemble the stacks. Start with one polenta round. Spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the Tofu Spinach filling on top. Then place a piece of eggplant on top of that, then another polenta round, followed by Tofu Spinach filling, and another eggplant round. Top this with a portobello mushroom.
Repeat until you have 6 stacks.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and serve as below.
Place about a quarter cup of the Tomato Cabernet sauce on a plate. Set a baked stack on top. Drizzle a generous amount of the Basil Cream sauce over the top and down the sides. Top with snipped basil for garnish.
Note: You can prepare virtually all of this ahead, and assemble and bake the stacks about a half hour before you plan to serve dinner. Or you can prepare everything but the eggplant and mushrooms, and grill them and then assemble the dish at the last minute.