Circular: Full Circle with Polenta and Family
Final circle: polenta pie.
My uncle asked me if this was vegan shepherd’s pie, and I low-blood-sugar snapped that it wasn’t. In hindsight, it is: Italian peasant shepherd’s pie. I used turnip greens instead of the original spinach because I usually eat spinach for salad greens anyway. Besides, spinach is bourgeois these days; turnip greens, though being rediscovered by hipsters and the like, are peasant food. Using kale would straddle both the traditional and the elite. Toscano kale would just make this, but, alas, I settled for the frozen turnip greens. I also added a can of beans since I like protein. I used black beans, which makes the dish a tad southwestern. If I used cumin and the Southwest spice profile…you see where this can go. I’ve been making combinations of grains lately to use up the odd 2/3 cup of rice, quinoa, lentils, et cetera all in one big batch. Since I didn’t have enough polenta for this recipe, I added sushi rice and oats to make a sticky mixture.
Modified from: Polenta Pie with Spinach http://beanvegan.blogspot.com/2007/02/polenta-pie-with-spinach.html
1 cup polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill and it is super quick-cooking)
3 cups water
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sushi rice, rinsed
2 1/2 cups water
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, pressed
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
16 ounces frozen turnip greens, defrosted and drained (drink the cooking water!)
red pepper flakes
1 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed
tomato sauce for serving (whatever you have on hand; optional extra credit!)
Make the polenta: in an at least two-quart saucepan, bring the polenta and water to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to medium, and stir it occasionally for about 15 minutes or until it thickens. Turn the heat off, put a lid on it, and set aside.
Make the rice and oats: in a medium-sized saucepan, bring the rice, oats, and water to a boil. DO NOT STIR. Once it has reached boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Once the rice is cooked through, stir the rice and oat mixture into the polenta.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9” pie plate. Spread about half the polenta-oat-sushi rice mixture on the bottom and sides of the pie plate.
Defrost and microwave or otherwise cook the turnip greens. Stir the basil into the greens and set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, braise the onion in about 1/4 cup water until it begins to turn translucent, about five minutes. Add the mushrooms, cover, and cook until the mushrooms take on some colour, about five minutes. Press in the garlic cloves and stir. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and toast the cayenne and hot red pepper for a minute before incorporating. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic has lost some of its edge. Drain the turnip greens and stir them in; cook for a minute to drive off additional moisture. Add the beans, take a potato masher, and mash the whole assemblage. Turn off the heat.
Fill the crust to a little over the height of the pan.
Dollop on the remaining polenta-oat-rice mixture and spread (use your fingers) to almost the edge of the pie.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes; remove the foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the top crust has browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
I had extra filling and pos (my abbreviation for polenta-oat-sushi rice mixture), so I ate that for dinner while the pie proper baked.
Were I to make this again, and I probably will, I would bake it for 40 minutes uncovered so that the top polenta crust turns crunchy.
I drank the turnip water, as you can see.
The Shoprite tomato sauce reminds me of when my family would visit the great-grandparents on Sundays (if we were already visiting my mom’s parents). At my mom’s father’s parents’ house, we would make two pizzas on cookie sheets. First we would oil the baking sheets. Then we stretched storebought dough into all the corners. My grandmother sautéed mushrooms—and in the summer, zucchini and summer squash from their garden—at the stove. Next, we spread Shoprite tomato sauce over the stretched dough. Next came the salt and pepper and the dried basil and oregano. Then we grated parmesan cheese over each pie. The mozzarella was next, and one pie received the sautéed veggies. Thus my mom, grandmother, sometimes my aunt, and I would make Sunday supper for whoever was visiting. You can tell we’re Italian. After dessert that my grandmother or mother brought, everyone would play Welfare, a card game that if you ever visit my family, you will probably end up playing. I don’t play; I’m the pit boss. My grandparents still have pizza on most Sundays, though they make their own dough and enjoy experimenting with pizza on the grill. They even made me a separate vegan, gluten-free pizza in summer 2011. That’s a tofu-walnut cheeze I crumbled on top.
I drank some zombie tea (Celestial Seasonings sleepytime tea) so I am zonking out now.