It never fails to hit me like a ton of bricks. The snow starts to melt, the birds start to sing, the sun pokes it’s head out from behind the winter grey and my cat suddenly wants to hang out on the balcony. My first thought is always “how soon can we open the cottage” followed very closely by “oh God – bikini season IS coming.”
The reality of the situation sets in – the sweaters I’ve been using to hide the fat I’ve been storing since Thanksgiving are soon going to be tucked into the back of the closet – where they can’t help me anymore. Time to do what we all know we must – bump up the cardio, add in some more strength training and – most importantly, eat right. For my waist line and my fiancée’s blood pressure I’m currently trying to introduce more veggie-centric meals with whole grains and limited fat. For us, polenta is the new potato if you will, and this is one of our favorites:
Polenta and Vegetables With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
1 cup uncooked instant polenta (or ready made - see note below)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan, divided
vegetable oil cooking spray
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or oregano) or 1 tbsp dried
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbs olive oil
8 asparagus stalks, ends trimmed
8 green onions, trimmed
2 small Japanese or Italian eggplants, trimmed and halved
1 medium yellow zucchini (about 1/2 lb), cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 jar (12 oz) prepared roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed of oil
1/3 cup vegetable (or chicken) broth - home made or low-sodium
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives, basil or parsley (plus extra for garnish)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Add polenta in a stream, whisking to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until thick, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Whisk in 1/3 cup Parmesan and season with salt.
3. Coat a 9-inch pie plate lightly with cooking spray. Transfer polenta to pie plate, smooth into an even layer and let cool 15 minutes. Heat broiler.
4. Whisk garlic, thyme, lemon juice and oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Toss cut vegetables with dressing.
5. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange vegetables in 1 layer (or heat up the bbq and grill veggies). Broil vegetables about 4 inches from heat until tender and slightly charred (3 to 5 minutes on each side). Transfer to a platter.
5. Combine all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
6. Sprinkle polenta with remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan. Broil polenta in pie plate until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, then cut polenta into 8 triangles.
7. Divide polenta among 4 plates. Top with vegetables, drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with chives. Serve any remaining sauce on the side.
Serves 4 - leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and reheat well in a moderate oven.
Note: you can use ready-made polenta – just check the fat and sodium content before you buy. and then continue from step 6. Also – polenta and veggies are GREAT done on the bar-b-que… As soon as it’s warm enough that you or your man can stand to be out there grilling – this recipe can be done outdoors! To grill polenta - let cooked polenta set completely in the fridge then slice into wedges, lightly oil and grill like the veggies -- add the parmesan after grilling in this case.
Adapted for my family from a SELF Magazine recipe.