Easy, Healthy and Hearty: Roasted Fall Veggies with Cheddar Polenta Squares

3 years ago
Sometimes I throw together easy dinners, like the quinoa-stuffed bell peppers that I posted yesterday, and they don't receive much fanfare at home. I guess if you're in the mood for something hearty, warm, and comforting, those bell peppers just aren't going to cut it--no matter how good they are.

Image: Courtesy of Sundae Brunch

The thing is, I really like to make healthy (or at least vegetable-heavy) dinners during the week. I like to believe that they make up for all the ice cream and wine, so I force myself to make them. Because really, sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and eat nothing but bread and cheese. For every meal. Every day. But that's not realistic, and I really am in love with cooking. 


This meal of roasted veggies, though, this meal was perfection. Roasted vegetables are the way to go. Tender, browned, caramelized, a little crisp around the edges. They just have so much more flavor than, say, steamed or boiled vegetables. The Internet has more than enough recipes for roasted vegetables, and you probably have your own method, anyway, but I can't recommend enough having roasted veggies for dinner over a square of perfectly creamy polenta. I threw in a few roasted chickpeas, too, and topped it all with a few fresh pomegranate seeds and a light drizzle of vinegary dressing. I love crispy, flavorful surface area, so I really turn the oven up high, keep just a single layer of veggies on each tray, and get a really good roast going. I did serve the veggies and polenta alongside some chorizo for those family members that "need" to eat meat, but for me this meal is perfectly fine without it. Easy, healthy, and hearty, it's something you can really look forward to eating. 

Roasted Vegetables
Dice your preferred vegetables. Here, I used potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. The Brussels sprouts should be sliced in half lengthwise, the potatoes unpeeled, and the sweet potatoes peeled.
I roasted the red onions and garlic cloves separately, as well as the chickpeas (drained, rinsed, and dried off very well). 
I arrange everything in a single layer on rimmed baking sheets, drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper, and bake at 425ºF for about 30-40 minutes, until they're nice and browned on the bottoms. Prior to roasting the sweet potatoes, I also sprinkle them with a bit of cayenne pepper. The onions and garlic take a bit less time, and the chickpeas should be tossed a few times during baking to get them even. 
Creamy White Cheddar Polenta Squares

4 cups chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1/2 tbsp. kosher salt*
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons butter

Pour the buttermilk and water into a large saucepan. Add the garlic and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and very, very slowly whisk in the cornmeal (to avoid lumps). Add the salt* and pepper, and simmer, stirring almost constantly, until thick. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, sour cream, and butter. Taste for seasoning. (If you don't want to wait, you can eat it as is instead of making squares.) *You may need to adjust the salt quantity, depending on the saltiness of your chicken broth or cheese.
Using a rubber spatula, transfer the polenta to a large baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Smooth out the polenta in the pan, aiming for an even thickness all across. Chill for 1 to 2 hours.
Line a separate rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil and brush with olive oil. Unmold the polenta and cut into squares (the size is really up to you). Brush the tops with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and space evenly on the oiled baking sheet. 
Bake at 450ºF for about 30 minutes.
Vinegar Dressing
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. mustard
1/2 tsp. dried ground thyme
1/2 tsp. dried ground sage
Salt and pepper, to taste
Whisk together all of the ingredients.  
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