Polenta Bake

I had never heard of polenta until I moved halfway across the country in my 20s. Down south we had grits, none of this polenta stuff. It took a while for me to trust the kind of squishy tubes of prepared cornmeal, but now it’s one of my go-to dinners when I don’t have much energy because of how long tubes of polenta can stay good in the pantry and how simple this recipe is.

Polenta Bake

Motivation rating: Low. Slice one soft thing, poke some holes in tomatoes and you’re good to go. 
Planning rating: My #1 low energy go-to dinner
Salt rating: Salted tomatoes + salted polenta (You add a lot of salt throughout)

Ingredients:
1 tube prepared polenta
1 pint small tomatoes (cherry, grape, multi colored, whatever you want)
Salt
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Olive oil for drizzling
Basil (optional)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350F and dig out either two pie pans, or a sheet pan with a lip all the way around. As you may remember, I keep forgetting and buying pie tins so I prepare this in those. It usually works out well because I get one tin to myself while my partner gets the other- no dividing up servings and an easy clean up.

Step 2: Cut open the roll of polenta (or, if you’re like me wash the plastic wrapper then slice through it with a clean knife because I don’t have the energy to deal with scissors). Slice into 1/2 inch slices. Wash the tomatoes and poke a small hole in each tomato with the tip of the knife. This keeps them from popping or exploding in the oven, and helps get the tomato juice to flavor the polenta.

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The store had basil and garlic flavored polenta this week.

Step 3: Sprinkle some salt over the tomatoes to help bring out the flavor and let sit for a minute. The salt will get inside through the hole you poked. I don’t need an excuse to salt anything, but if you’re curious why salting tomatoes helps them taste better check it out here. (Via Serious Eats)

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Step 4: Lay out the polenta flat on the tin, and along the sides if you have extra. Add tomatoes in the gap areas to help distribute the flavor. Top with nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, and a healthy sprinkle of salt. I added table salt and a bit of coarse ground sea salt. Then drizzle with olive oil. If you want, you can also add balsamic vinegar at this step.

Step 5: Put in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, then check to see when edges are golden brown to your liking. If you let it go too long the polenta can be a bit hard, so what we’re aiming for here is crispy outside and soft inside.

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This is a rare moment, we usually eat it straight out of the pie tin.

Step 6: If you feel like, top with basil and salt to taste.

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