A Recipe From Vegetarian Traditions by Chef George Vutetakis

Roasted Stuffed Polenta

Italy has provided the world with many gifts, such as the paved road, grand opera and fine cuisine.  Corn was introduced to Italy from the New World in the 16th century and it rapidly replaced barley as a staple grain.  Polenta was a dish that a cook would labor over for many hours, stirring and watching to derive the right consistency.  My good friend David DiChiera, General Director of Michigan Opera Theater, describes how his Italian father cooked polenta for special occasions, spending the day carefully stirring his creamy masterpiece and signature dish.  Polenta is often a creamy, pudding-like dish; Roasted Stuffed Polenta is a firmer version which may be prepared as a light main course.


2-3/4 cups water

2 tablespoons leeks, finely minced

2 tablespoons carrots, minced

1/2 cup corn off the cob

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup organic medium ground corn meal

In a sauce pan on medium heat, add water, leeks, carrots, corn, bay leaf and sea salt.  Simmer broth for five minutes. Slowly stir in corn meal and cook until it thickens.  Transfer to a double boiler on medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes.  Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, flatten to 1/4 inch thick and let rest for at least 30 minutes.  Cut polenta into 4 inch squares and then angle-cut into triangles.

Baking Sauce

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon tamari

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400º F.  Mix together all baking sauce ingredients and spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place individual polenta pieces on the sauce and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are browned.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Basil Pesto

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Puree all basil pesto ingredients in a food processor until it becomes a paste with texture.  Spread pesto on half the polenta triangles and place the remaining halves on top sandwich-style.  Toast in a 400º F oven for 8 minutes just before serving.

Tuscan White Beans

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup leeks, diced

2 cups finocchio (fresh fennel bulb), trimmed, cored and thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

2 cups water or bean stock

1 cup soy milk

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

4 cups cooked Cannellini or Great Northern  beans (page 191)

1/4 cup almond meal or flour

Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat.  Add leeks, finocchio and garlic.  Cook until leeks are clear, then add water, soy milk, white pepper, sea salt and beans.  Simmer until beans start to break up.  Add almond meal and simmer another 5 minutes.

Roasted Asparagus

24 spears fresh asparagus, washed and stemmed

1-1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Mix asparagus with all ingredients.  Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.


1/3 cup red bell peppers, finely diced

Place 1 cup of beans in the center of a plate.  Put one Roasted Stuffed Polenta on the beans and arrange 3 spears of asparagus across the top of it in a fan pattern.  Sprinkle red bell peppers around perimeter of plate.



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