Just kidding about the toga party…but I did tease my brother about having one while he was away and I was house sitting for him. Instead, I invited my dear friend Kelly out and we enjoyed the pool, hot tub, and relaxing views of the lake via adirondack chairs on his dock. Between some great wine, laughs, and Skye the family dog, slipping and falling into the pool (which ended up popping my raft and sending us both sinking to the bottom) I whipped up Alice Waters polenta torta from her new cookbook The Art of Simple Food. My Aunt Rose got this cookbook for me and since I had a week of house sitting in front of me, I thought no time like the present to cook some delicious food from it.
There are a few steps to this recipe. The first was to make Alice’s Simple Tomato Sauce. I had sauteed some baby bella mushrooms in a little butter/EVOO and added them to the sauce at the end.
28. oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped; save juice.
5 garlic cloves coarsely chop
1/4 cup EVOO
Sea Salt to taste
3 tblsp butter
Procedure: Heat oil in skillet over medium -high heat. Add garlic, then tomatoes & the juice. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Next layer was sauteed escarole & half of onion that I had chopped, added a little EVOO to a skillet and sauteed for about 3-5 minutes. Season with sea salt to taste.
For the polenta Alice recommends 4 cups of H2O to 1 cup polenta, plus 1 tsp. salt.
When the water comes to a boil in a slow and steady stream whisk in the polenta/salt. Turn heat down to simmer. Stir continually for about 2-3 minutes- you don’t want the polenta to be a big blob stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then stir every few minutes. The recipe calls for letting it cook for an hour for the flavors to really develop, but we were starving so I only let it go for 20 minutes and was fine. After the 20 minutes was up, I added in 3 tablespoons of butter.
So here is the final recipe from her book. We ended up getting 8 servings out of it from a 9 X 9 glass pan.
1 cup of cooked polenta
2 cups of Simple Tomato Sauce
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese; grated
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella; thinly sliced
Oil baking pan. Pour in 1 1/3 cup of polenta. Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce of polenta. On top of this arrange half of the mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with half the grated Parmesan. Top with grilled escarole. Spread another layer of polenta, tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, escarole. Top off with the remaining polenta and allow the torta to sit for at least 30 minutes before baking to allow the polenta to sit. Preheat the oven to 350. Bake for about 30 minutes.
Kelly and I both agreed that this torta got better as the days went on. She ended up going home and making one herself, but put grilled zucchini in it instead of escarole. This recipe is very versatile. You can mix up the cheeses, add pesto instead of tomato sauce, or change up the vegetables to whatever you have on hand.
I found another blogger who made this recipe as well and took some nice pics of it. If you end up reaching for jarred pasta sauce, I must beg you….NOOOOOOO!!!! Get yourself some San Marzano tomatoes and make this a Mindful Meal!!
Next up is sweet and savory tarts, plus some local honey finds.