Make your vegetarian happy!

This is a dish the kids and I used to eat quite frequently two housing arrangements ago when I was far more committed to vegetarian eating than I am now. What changed? Don’t really know, but I’m feeling the need to go back to that as it challenged me and sated me in ways than a more meat-centric diet does.

The trick with it is to maintain individual flavours as much as possible and creating non-confrontational side dishes to go with it. It’s not difficult at all, just a matter of who you’re feeding.

Here’s my recipe for Grilled Cheesy Polenta and Mushrooms in a Rosemary-infused Wine Gravy:

The first step is to create the polenta. It needs to set and chill for at least 2 hours before it can be grilled. It only takes about 20 minutes to prepare from beginning to end so it’s something which can be put together up to two days beforehand or first thing in the morning (for the more motivated among us).

Ingredients:

9 cups water
2 tsp coarse sea salt
3 cups yellow cornmeal (fine or coarse – I tend to prefer coarse but fine was closest today, so that’s what I bought)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese (this can be vegan cheese)

In a large (we’re talking stock or pasta-type pot) bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, slowly add the cornmeal, gently sifting it through your fingers in a gentle stream so it does not become clumpy. Once all of the cornmeal is in the pot, reduce the heat to medium and stir vigorously (vigorous is important here because the mash will sputter and spit unless this is done) until the mash easily falls away from the side of the pot. Remove the pot from heat and stir in butter and cheese. Pour the hot mixture into a lightly greased casserole dish and chill.

This is what the polenta will look like:

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The next step is to infuse the wine. That’s pretty easy; Take one tablespoon of dried rosemary leaves, or a 6 inch sprig of fresh rosemary and bruise them/it in a mortar and pestle. Add that to 1 cup of nice, dry white wine.

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Retsina works wonderfully for this as it’s already infused with a resinous aroma provided it by the pine sap seal used to keep the amphorae in which they’re aged air tight. The $5ish price tag per bottle doesn’t hurt either. The sooner one can begin that process, the better, especially when using dried rosemary as its dryness might affect texture in strange ways. I didn’t begin until about 2 hours before I began cooking.

Next is the mushrooms and gravy.

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 medium diced onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb portabello mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tbsp flour
The aforementioned wine infused with rosemary
3/4 cup water

In a skillet melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic. Sautee until garlic and onions become golden brown. Increase heat to medium-high. Add mushrooms. Sautee until mushrooms are wilted. Sift flour through fingers over the flour and stir, with a wooden spoon until mushrooms are coated in flour. Go start your barbecue. Cook & stir with the wooden spoon for about two to four minutes until flour is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Begin adding wine & rosemary mixture slowly, lifting flour from the bottom of the pan with the wooden spoon as you add it. Cook for three to five minutes. Add water slowly, stirring it into the existing mixture with the wooden spoon. Let simmer on low heat.

At this point your barbecue should be ready to grill the polenta. Lightly brush each piece with olive oil and place oiled side down on the grill. This stuff is the hardest thing to burn ever, so it’s ok to leave it alone for a little while, though I don’t necessarily suggest it to those who don’t multi-task well. The sauce will be ok simmering while you grill the polenta, so don’t worry about doing too many things at once.

Once the polenta is nicely grilled and hot, spoon your mushrooms and gravy over it. Sprinkle with chopped, fresh parsley and finely grated asiago cheese.

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I chose to serve steamed green beans in lemon pepper butter with it. I was lovely.

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