I love polenta. A mainstay of Italian cuisine, it's often overshadowed by the likes of its older stepsisters, pizza and pasta. But for those who are keen on adopting a more gluten-free lifestyle, polenta is full of unlimited possibilities as substitute for our favorite wheat-based carbs.

Polenta contains vitamins A and C, and a single serving alone has as much protein as a large egg. Accompanied by nutrient-dense greens like Swiss chard and oodles of mouthwatering roasted veggies, this “polenta pie” is sure to please even those who are most skeptical of gluten-free cuisine. I made this once without cheese or butter for a neighbor who is gluten and dairy free, and she loved it. There are infinite possibilities for vegetable choices, so use whatever is on hand. If you’re cooking for a group, just double the recipe for a beautiful and bountiful pie. Just be sure to place a baking sheet underneath, in case it spills over the edges.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup coarse grind polenta
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed, stems removed and sliced into ribbons
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced crosswise into rounds
  • 3-4 smallish size (think Roma or kumamoto) tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Small handful fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 ounce crumbled feta (optional)
  • 10 small black olives, pitted and sliced
  • 2 tbsp. herb or regular unsalted butter (or olive oil)
  • Additional olive oil
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • *Optional dried herbs like oregano and thyme for roasting
  • A traditional 9-inch pie plate or other round baking dish (Depth should be about 1.5 inches)
  • Chef’s note: I had homemade herb butter on hand, but as an alternative, try roasting the veggies tossed in some dried thyme and oregano to add a touch of savory to the dish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place tin foil over a large baking sheet and distribute the green pepper and tomato slices throughout. Drizzle with olive oil and gently toss with your hands to coat. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 15-20 minutes.

After the veggies have roasted, reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees.

Slice the chard stems crosswise into ½-inch thick pieces and sauté in a pan over medium heat with the garlic, red pepper flakes and a tablespoon of olive oil for 4-5 minutes. Next, add the chard leaves and cook until just wilted. Remove from heat, add a pinch of salt and set aside.

In the meantime, prepare the polenta according to the package directions. The butter (or olive oil) is added towards the end of cooking. Fold the chard and stems into the polenta and remove from heat. By now, your roasted veggies are probably done. Remove them from the oven and scrape away from the foil, allowing to cool for a few minutes.

Grease your pie plate or baking dish with just a bit of olive oil. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the polenta and chard mixture into the pie plate, distributing evenly. Pile on the roasted veggies however you like and lay the black olives on top. Drizzle on the juices collected in the foil from the veggies and finish with a bit of crumbled feta if desired. Season with a touch more salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees until the polenta reaches a nice firm and dense texture. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Allow to cool slightly and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2-3 as a main dish.


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