Some challenges are right up my alley. Take this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge, for instance. The challenge is to make something using 5 ingredients or less. Oh, how easy is this?! To be delicious, not every meal or side-dish needs to have a zillion components or use every cooking vessel known to woman or require super-complicated directions.
I can do it with 3 ingredients.
For this meal, I chose a main course and two sides. (I left dessert for another time.)
The main dish is a polenta lasagna with smoked mozzarella cheese.
The first side is an eggplant stuffed with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.
The second side is a mixture of roasted green beans and Kalamata olives.
The combination is really delicious and filling.
All the recipes come from one of my favorite cookbooks: Recipes 1-2-3 Menu Cookbook: Morning, Noon, and Night by Rozanne Gold. I also have her Recipes 1-2-3 cookbook, which I highly recommend, as it is loaded with delicious recipes.
So, thanks to Sara and Lynn for a fun challenge. I'll be interested in seeing what others came up with when the roundup is posted in early February.
Polenta "Lasagne" with Smoked Mozzarella
(adapted from Recipes 1-2-3 Menu Cookbook)
12 ounces smoked mozzarella
2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
28-ounce can or 2 14-ounce cans dice tomatoes in puree
Cut a third of the cheese into small pieces. Cut the remainder into slices.
In a large, heavy saucepan, bring 7 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/8 teaspoon white pepper, and cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, whisking until smooth. Break up lumps, if necessary. Lower heat to medium.
Stir constantly until the polenta begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Add the small pieces of cheese and stir until melted. Continue stirring until the polenta is very thick.
Spray an 11 by 14-inch baking pan with nonstick spray, or line with release foil. Pour hot polenta into the pan, making an even layer. Let cool at least 2 hours at room temperature to let polenta harden.
Preheat broiler. Cut polenta, while still in pan, into 12 equal pieces. Place under broiler until the tops are lightly browned and crisp. Remove.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place tomatoes with their liquid into a saucepan. Puree with a stick blender. (Or puree with a food processor before pouring into pan.) Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
Assembly: put 6 pieces of polenta, touching, side by side, into a 10-by10-inch or 9-by-11-inch pan. Spoon on half the tomato sauce to cover. Place half the cheese slices over the tomato sauce. Top with another layer of polenta, sauce, and cheese.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot. (Serves at least 6.)
Japanese Eggplants with Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
4 long slender Japanese eggplants
10 pieces sun-dried tomatoes in oil
20 thin slices of fresh garlic
Preheat over to 375 degrees F.
Cut 5 slits across the width of each eggplant, approximately 1 inch apart. Cut sun-dried tomatoes in half, reserving oil. Slip a piece of sun-dried tomato and a slice of garlic into each slit.
Place eggplants on foil. Drizzle with some of the reserved oil. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fold foil to enclose eggplants in a sealed package. Put on baking sheet and bake 40 minutes, or until eggplants are soft.
Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 4.
(Note: I used pre-sliced sun-dried tomatoes, not preserved in oil. I drizzled the eggplants with olive oil.)
Roasted Green Beans with Kalamata Olives
1 pound tender green beans
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Wash and trim green beans, removing strings if necessary.
Place beans in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and mix well to coat. Add olives. Sprinkle with a little Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Place pan in oven. Roast 6 minutes, then stir mixture and roast for another 5-6 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Good cold or hot.