Sunday, June 24, 2007

Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cheese

My CSA Farmer, Ellen, includes a little bulletin with each delivery. The very first week, she asked that we learn to like swiss chard, as we'd be seeing it a lot throughout the course of the summer. I'd neither purchased nor knowingly consumed swiss chard, so I had no preconceived notions on it. First impression - its enormous. People should warn you. I mean, I could fan myself with one, should the AC go out. Whilst I'm fed cool grapes.... I digress. Friends with chard, got it.

I've noticed a trend with the two chard recipes I've used thus far - both had ricotta cheese. I don't know if that means something... it could just be that I gravitate to ricotta cheese.

At any rate, this dish is polenta based, and its built in layers, like a lasagne. I credit (blame) my friend Stephanie with our new-found-love of polenta. I don't how how I got by 31 years without it. The creamy polenta was mixed with the ricotta and layered with the sauteed swiss chard and fresh mozzarella cheese, once repeated. Baked in the oven and then given a chance to rest and meld. Please please please give it the resting period. If you don't, it will ooze all over and not hold up enough to be scooped out. Trust me. (As someone that's only recently learned to wait. ;) )

I didn't do anything fancy with the chicken breasts we had along with the polenta/ricotta/chard casserole, just roasted in the same oven with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. I purposefully neglected the chicken, thinking that the mix of flavors in the polenta would make up for it - and I was right!

Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cheese
Bon Appetit Magazine, November 2002

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 pound Swiss chard, thick stems and ribs removed, leaves cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips 3 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal) or yellow cornmeal 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 cups coarsely grated low-fat mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 2-quart glass baking dish. Heat oil in a heavy large deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sautĂ© until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in garlic and crushed red pepper, then chard; cover and cook until chard is tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Uncover; stir until any excess liquid in skillet evaporates. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring 3 1/2 cups water and salt to boil in heavy large saucepan. Gradually stir polenta into boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until polenta is very thick, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk ricotta and eggs in bowl; whisk in 1 cup hot polenta. Stir ricotta mixture into polenta in saucepan. Spread half of polenta mixture in baking dish. Spread half of chard mixture over. Sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Repeat layering with remaining polenta, chard, and cheese. Bake until puffed and brown on top, about 45 minutes. Cool 30 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: calories, 259; total fat, 12 g; saturated fat, 5 g; cholesterol, 79 mg

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