I like to make this dish on special occasions or when I’m feeling in the mood to cook, as it requires three preparations: the polenta, the cooked vegetables, and the barbecue sauce. But it’s really tasty and pretty.
Even though I love to cook, I’m not a fan of spending an hour in the kitchen for one recipe, which may be the reason I’ve never cooked with polenta. Most recipes require a lengthy cooking time (45 minutes or so) and near constant stirring, along the lines of risotto.
Traditional polenta recipes usually call for chicken stock, butter, milk, cheese, and salt. I left all these out in favor of water and a few herbs and spices. While my version may not be traditional, it’s faster, easier and tastes great. (The nutrition information here includes the BBQ sauce. You can find the sauce recipe below).
- For the quinoa polenta:
- 2½ cups water
- ½ cup organic medium- or coarse-grind cornmeal
- ½ cup dry/uncooked quinoa
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1½ teaspoons granulated onion
- 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- For the vegetables:
- 8 medium white or cremini mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
- 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced (about 2 cups)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 1½ cups)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (4 or 5 medium cloves)
- To make the quinoa polenta, bring all of the ingredients (water, cornmeal, quinoa, garlic, onion, oregano, and chili powder) to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper.
- Spread the thick, cooked mixture evenly into the bottom of the dish and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
- To cook the vegetables, heat 1 tablespoon of water in a large frying pan or soup pot over medium-high heat. When the water starts to sputter, add the mushrooms, onions, zucchini, and bell pepper, and cook while stirring for 3 to 5 minutes, adding a little water, as needed. Add the zucchini and garlic, and cook while stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat.
- After removing the cooked quinoa polenta from the oven, cut it into four squares and place each one on a plate. Spoon the cooked vegetables over the top of each square, and top with a spoonful of the barbecue sauce (recipe below), or you can serve the sauce on the side.
Your favorite dried herbs and spices to the cooking polenta.
Your favorite vegetables to the frying pan.
A can of drained and rinsed black beans to the cooking vegetables.
Fresh vegetables on top, such as sliced cherry tomatoes or avocado.
Above: The unbaked batter spread into a parchment paper-lined square baking dish (left), and a piece after cooking (right).
The trick with developing a BBQ Sauce recipe is to avoid ending up with glorified ketchup. BBQ sauce basically starts out as ketchup, but it should end up being so much more. I started with typical BBQ sauce ingredients: tomato paste, mustard, vinegar, and spices, but avoided other typical ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke, since both often contain high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein, caramel coloring, sugar, anchovies, oil, and/or salt.
To achieve the rich, dark color and earthy taste (not overly acidic), I used black beans and few raisins (which also added sweetness and tanginess). Additionally, most BBQ recipes have a lot of ingredients, around 10 in addition to ketchup, and that is just way too much! So I tried to keep the ingredient list on the shorter side. I also discovered that simmering the sauce really makes a difference by avoiding the ketchup-y taste and bringing the flavors into harmony.
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1 can (6-oz.) tomato paste
- ½ cup black beans (drained, rinsed)
- ¼ cup brown raisins
- 2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ¾ teaspoon granulated onion
- Place all of the ingredients (water, tomato paste, black beans, raisins, mustard, chili powder, vinegar, and granulated garlic and onion) into a blender, and blend for 1-2 minutes, until smooth.
- At this point, you can serve the sauce as is, or simmer it to deepen the flavors and color. Pour the sauce into a medium saucepan and bring to almost boiling over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes.
Above: Polenta-Quinoa and BBQ Sauce with water-sautéed veggies: onions, zucchini, red bell pepper, and mushrooms, and some diced avocado.
Above: Quinoa-Polenta sliced into small squares or thin bars makes a great snack or appetizer, warm or cold.
Above: You can also bake the batter in a round dish or pan for a Quinoa-Polenta pie!
Above: Baked polenta cut into small squares with sautéed, curried vegetables. Polenta is coarsely or finely ground cornmeal boiled with water or stock into a porridge and eaten directly, or baked or grilled. The term “polenta” may refer either to the ingredient (the cornmeal) or a dish made with it (porridge, baked or grilled).
If you make this recipe and enjoy it, please share a comment below or on my Facebook page. If you’d like to print this recipe, use the green “Print” button near the top-right of the recipe. Learn more about the Straight Up Food Cookbook here. Thank you!