Double Decker Polenta with Swiss Chard & Mushrooms

Rosemary never ceases to amaze me. Out here in the Bay Area, a tiny cutting of rosemary soon turns into giant bush, taller than I am and virtually indestructible. The latter was certainly a relief to me as I hacked ruthlessly at the branches invading paths and pushing against the greenhouse yesterday evening — they’ll grow back even more vigorously soon enough. I emerged carrying the scent of rosemary in every pore and a fistful of rosemary sprigs in my hand, excited at the possibilities, starting with a glamorous baked polenta dish inspired by the Daring Gourmet!

I made half as much as called for below, since it was just my brother and I tonight and I only had one appropriate baking pan. Certainly not a quick and easy process, but worth every last minute when it came out of the oven! Delicious and utterly gorgeous (none of my photographs could do it justice.) Quite possibly the best way to use chard, and polenta for that matter, that I’ve tried yet! With advanced planning, several of the steps can be staggered ahead of time. This dish could also be a great way to use up leftover tomato sauce or cooked greens. While not quite as stunning in presentation, this can also be prepared more quickly and simply in a single layer. This would also help with portion control — I’m still stuffed five hours after eating my extravagently stacked piece.

UPDATE (10/19/17): Made this again, this time simply spooning the cooked polenta into a greased 9×11″ baking pan and letting it chill for an hour or so in the fridge while I cooked up onions, peppers, and Asian greens in a homemade tomato sauce, and blended together a batch of “sun ricotta.” (No rosemary or thyme this time, but did have fennel, oregano, and lots of purple basil simmered into the sauce.) Then cut into eighths, spooned some sauce and “ricotta” on top of half of them, placed the other half on top, covered with more sauce and “ricotta,” and baked at 375°F for 30-45 minutes, until warmed through and top has crisped up ever so slightly. SO good!

PolentaLasagne

Double Decker Polenta with Swiss Chard & Mushrooms
(Serves 4-6)

2 cups polenta

6 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 14oz. can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted with green chilies since that’s what we had)

Fresh rosemary and thyme leaves, to taste

2 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 mushrooms, sliced

Chopped onion

1 bunch chard

About 1/4 pound mozarella cheese

A few sprinkles parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cook polenta in six cups of salted water until thick, then spoon into the bottom of two generously greased 8×8″ baking pans (one 9×11″ might also work). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until firm enough to hold together and beginning to crisp slightly on the edges. Alternately, you can chill it for at least an hour or overnight in the fridge. Meanwhile, in a small pot, gently simmer together tomatoes and herbs, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated. The longer the better so that the flavors can meld. Remove chard stems, chop, and sautee with onions until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in coursely chopped chard leaves, then add water and cover for a few minutes to steam, until chard leaves wilted and tender. Sautee mushrooms and garlic in butter or oil. When the polenta is ready, cut each pan into four to six pieces. Cover half of the pieces with a tomato, chard, and mushroom, then sprinkle generously with parmesan and mozarella cheese. Top each piece with a second slice of polenta and layer on the toppings again. Return to the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until bubbly and golden on top. Yum!

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