Monday, January 9, 2012

Meatless Monday ~ Spinach, Mushroom & Polenta Bake

You've heard of Manic Monday, but have you heard of Meatless Monday?  Basically, it's a grassroots movement trying to get Americans to cut down on our meat consumption for a variety of very good reasons.  Now, I'm not one to impose my vegetarian ideals on anyone, but I think we can all do with a little less meat in our diet.  Every Monday, Meals, Heels, and Cocktails will help champion the Meatless Monday movement with delicious meatless meals that won't have you asking "where's the beef?!" 

Spinach, Mushroom and Polenta Bake

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 10-ounce packages sliced mushrooms (1 each white, shiitake and cremini)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large package baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper 
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided
One 18-ounce log of prepared polenta, cut into ¼-inch slices
  
Preheat the oven to 350°.  Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet.  Add  mushrooms and onion and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally about 8 minutes, until lightly browned.  Add garlic and spinach and cook over high heat until the spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the spinach mixture evenly in a 2-quart baking dish.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet over medium high heat. Stir in flour and cook one minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in milk and wine, bring to a boil and cook about 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in 1 cup Swiss cheese and stir until melted.  Pour over spinach mixture. Arrange polenta slices on top of the mixture, overlapping slightly. 


Sprinkle remaining cheese over polenta, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Note:  This dish can be completely assembled, covered and stored in the refrigerator up to a day before.  When ready, just pop it in the oven.
  



Polenta 101
 

Polenta is a popular comfort food from Italy that's grown in popularity over the years.  It's made from yellow or white cornmeal and is extremely versatile.  Combined with water or milk, it's cooked in a similar way to grits. The resulting smooth, creamy texture makes it a great alternative to rice, pasta or mashed potatoes.  Polenta can be flavored with herbs and cheeses to stand on it's own, or seasoned simply, with salt and pepper, to act as a canvas for saucy dishes.




Soft polenta can be refrigerated and allowed to harden, then cut into slices and baked, grilled or pan seared.





 

Prepared polenta logs are a great time saver.  They're are available in most supermarkets; you can usually find them in the produce or organic section. 





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