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).Print
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.Print
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).