I saw a pretty and summery meal involving a polenta terrine in the August/September issue of Donna Hay magazine and got inspired to make something similar. The terrine in the magazine was made with chorizo and spinach and was served with fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, but my goal was to use some eggplant, summer squash, bell peppers, and greens from my CSA and make it a little more autumnal with a cooked tomato sauce. Polenta is great for a terrine because it sets up solidly and holds its shape very well. This couldn’t have been simpler to prepare, and once it has chilled for a few hours or overnight, it’s sliced and quickly warmed in the oven. I served the warmed slices with a spicy tomato sauce sprinkled with some chopped parsley.
A basic polenta was made with broth, and when thick, grated parmesan and butter were added. I chopped eggplant, summer squash, and bell peppers and sauteed them until tender and added some baby mustard greens. Next time, I’ll chop the vegetables into a little smaller dice so they squish into the terrine more snuggly. But, moving right along, a parchment-lined loaf pan was layered with polenta, then some shredded mozzarella, the sauteed vegetables, and more mozzarella, and then it was topped with the remaining polenta. The pan was covered and refrigerated overnight. The next day, the polenta came out of the pan easily and was cut into thick slices. The slices were placed on a baking sheet and drizzled with olive oil. They went into the oven for a few minutes to warm through. In hindsight, I should have pulled them from the oven a little sooner than I did because the mozzarella melted a bit too much and ran out from the sides of the cut pieces. The slices were prettier when the cheese is in place.
Even though I would change a couple of details next time around, I was still very happy with this dish. The parmesan-flavored polenta sandwiching the vegetables and mozzarella was everything simple comfort food should be, even though it was smartly dressed in layers of a terrine. I had never before thought of using polenta in a terrine, but it works so well and the possibilities of what to layer with it are endless.
Polenta and Vegetable Terrine
adapted from Aug/Sept issue Donna Hay Magazine
3 T extra virgin olive oil + extra for drizzling
1 eggplant, diced
1 summer squash, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 c baby greens for braising such as mustard greens
6 c vegetable broth
2 c polenta
2 T butter
1/2 c grated parmesan
2 c shredded mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
Tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes for serving
-Heat 3 T oil in a large saute pan. Add diced vegetables and garlic slices and cook until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When vegetables are tender and cooked through, add greens and stir to wilt. Remove from heat and set aside.
-Place vegetable broth in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Slowly add polenta while whisking. Switch to a wooden spoon, turn heat down to medium, and stir until polenta is thick. This will be a few minutes for instant polenta. Add butter, parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to incorporate.
-Line a loaf pan with parchment paper allowing paper to overhang long sides. Place half the polenta in bottom of loaf pan. Top polenta with half the mozzarella. Top mozzarella with the vegetables, and then add the remaining mozzarella and polenta. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours.
-Once chilled and set, remove polenta from loaf pan and cut into thick slices while oven pre-heats to 400 degrees F. Place slices on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake just to warm through, about five minutes. Serve with a warm tomato sauce or fresh cherry tomatoes.
-You can get as creative as you like with the layers, but I kept my simple with just one layer of vegetables.