Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Polenta and Tomato Casserole with Cannellini Beans and Basil

We sharpened our knives yesterday, and what better way to appreciate their new and improved prowess than with the delicate slicing and dicing of tomatoes?

(After all, without a perfectly honed knife, the soft and slippery orange-red orbs will persistently slip and squish their way about the cutting board, without receiving the appealingly diced shapes they deserve...)

In honor of a bit more slicing and dicing, one might even fancy an entire spring menu...

The main course with tomatoes, of course...

Polenta and Tomato Casserole with Cannellini Beans and Basil...

along with,

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Onion Balsamic Dressing...

Whole Wheat Focaccia...

served with classic chickpea Hummus...

and... a grand Honey-Apple-Rum-Raisin-Dark Chocolate Cake for dessert!!

Most importantly, though, those spring tomatoes... with mozzarella cheese... and tender baby spinach...

Polenta and Tomato Stew with Cannellini Beans and Basil

1 tube prepared polenta, cut into 20 thin slices
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1 T basil
8 oz tempeh, crumbled
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz baby spinach leaves
1 cup tomatoes, finely diced, juices included
1 (14.5 oz) can cannellini beans, drained
1 cup part skim mozzarella

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
~ Whisk together the ricotta and basil with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
~ Coat a skillet with cooking spray, and saute the tempeh over medium-high heat until browned.
~ Season the tempeh with salt and pepper, add the onions and garlic, and continue to saute until the onions are limp and translucent. Remove the mixture from the heat.
~ Line a 6 quart casserole dish with half the polenta slices.
~ Place half the spinach leaves atop the polenta.
~ Spread half the cannellini beans over the spinach. The spinach will begin to wilt already, adding to the broth that will be formed from the tomatoes and beans during cooking.
~ Scatter half the tempeh and onion mixture atop the beans.
~ Pour half the tomatoes, with their juce, over the tempeh.
~ Spread all of the ricotta mixture over the tomatoes.
~ Line the rest of the polenta on top of the ricotta mixture, followed by the rest of the spinach, the rest of the beans, the rest of the tempeh mixture, and the rest of the tomatoes.
~ Scatter the mozzarella cheese on top of everything.
~ Cover, and bake for 35 minutes. The covered casserole will allow everything to steam and become brothy, making this a bit of a "baked stew."
~ Uncover, and bake for 5 more minutes to brown the cheese a bit.
~ Serve warm in nice big bowls...


lesley said...

Yum!! : ) That dessert looks especially delicious ; )

Gita's Kitchen said...

Oh everything looks so deliciious. Love the casserole dish :)

The Diva on a Diet said...

Yum! This casserole looks so comforting and delicious. I feel like I can almost taste it. Wonderful meal, Astra, all of it ... though I'm in love with the casserole.

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Yes tomatoes are the ultimate test of a knife! Such delicious comfort food there, it's getting colder here and all I'm thinking of is comfort food... :)

Astra Libris said...

Lesley, thank you! Yay for dessert... :-)

Gita, thank you so very much!

Diva, you're too sweet... Thank you! :-)

Lorraine, comfort food is the best part of the cold seasons, isn't it? :-)

Kevin said...

That casserole with polenta sounds really good! The rest of the meal looks fantastic as well!

Muneeba said...

Oooooo ... love a good casserole, and this one looks especially nummy! Polenta, tomatoes, cheese, beans ... it's like a big hug!