This colorful and flavorful dish is wonderful served alongside grilled chicken or fish. Accompanied by a salad, it makes a perfect light entrée.
6 cups Dairy Milk Alternative
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups medium or coarse ground yellow cornmeal
Olive oil*, for brushing (optional)
1 1/4 cup Vegetable Stock
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 Japanese eggplants, or 1 small globe eggplant, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 red bell pepper, seeded, ribbed, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 zucchinis, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 cups Chopped Tomatoes or 1 (14.5-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup hand-torn fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Basil sprigs, for garnish (optional)
To prepare the polenta: Combine the milk, thyme, and salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer; do not boil. Decrease the heat to low and gradually add the cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the side of the pan, about 20 minutes. Pour into a nonstick 8-inch loaf pan. Smooth the top with a spatula, gently pressing to compact the polenta. Allow to cool about 45 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
To prepare the ragout: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the onion and 1 tablespoon of the stock, and steam-sauté for 3 minutes. Add the remaining stock, eggplant, garlic, and salt, and sauté, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, basil, and pepper, and sauté for 3 minutes. Cover and simmer the vegetables over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Season to taste.
Preheat the grill or broiler. Turn the polenta out onto a cutting board and slice into sixteen 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Then, slice each piece diagonally, forming 2 triangles. Transfer to a cookie sheet and brush both sides lightly with olive oil. Grill or broil each side until lightly browned, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to serving plates. To serve as a starter or side dish, arrange 2 slices of the grilled polenta on a plate and spoon the ragout on top, garnishing with basil sprigs. As an entrée, arrange 4 slices per plate.