Daring Cooks August 2012 – Polenta with Roasted Vegetables and Feta {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

Daring Cooks August 2012 – Polenta with Roasted Vegetables and Feta {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

Polenta with Roasted Vegetables and Feta

How is it August already? Where does the time go, and why has it started speeding up and flying by? I feel like it was just memorial day, and now labor day is already right around the corner.

Well I really can’t even recall what I’ve been doing with all my free time this summer, but at least with this blog I can see all the yummy dishes I’ve been preparing. Here come’s another one to add to the list – polenta with roasted vegetables and feta.

This month’s daring cook challenge was cornmeal themed and hosted by Rachel from Pizzarossa. There was no mandatory recipe or technique, just to incorporate cornmeal somehow into the meal. Another first for me. I had never before cooked with cornmeal before and the closest I came to this was when I made tamales for a previous challenge using corn flour. I did at first try to see if cornflour and cornmeal are the same thing – since now I have a 5 pound bag of cornflour waiting around for a tamale party to come my way. Unfortunately the two are not interchangeable – the corn meal is not as fine as the corn flour and is more gritty, adding a completely different texture to dishes. So I did indeed have to purchase some corn meal.

Polenta with Oven Roasted Vegetables

My initial plan was to buy one of those polenta tubes which I’m guessing you slice and then pan fry/grill? All I could find at Giant were bags of cornmeal so with the polenta making instructions on the back I set off to work. Boil the water, add the cornmeal, stir for 3 minutes, sounds simple enough. To add some richness to it I threw in a little bit of shredded Parmesan, and then a little bit more, and some more – you can never have enough Parm right?

Well I was going for polenta rounds top with a roasted vegetable medley but instead settled for polenta pooridge with the roasted veggies.

The verdict? Jury is still out. The vegetables? Delicious – absolutely amazing, smokey full of flavors – I just wanted to eat those solo. The polenta? I’m not so sure I’m a polenta fan. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I can’t say that I loved it.

Maybe I slightly overcooked it, or should have used more water? Hard to tell since I have nothing to compare it to. This could be like my quinoa experiences though – the first time I hated it and now I’m practically its sponsor. So maybe I just need to give the polenta another shot – good thing I didn’t use up all the cornmeal and can try making it again.

What are your experiences with polenta? Love it or hate it? Any cooking tips?

So if you’re a polenta nut and looking for some new vegetarian meals you’re going to love this recipe but if you’re not a fan, just make the roasted veggies themselves.

Polenta with Oven Roasted Vegetables and Feta

Yields 3

Daring Cooks August 2012 - Polenta with Roasted Vegetables and Feta

Simple vegetarian meal of polenta and roasted veggies

10 minsPrep Time

45 minsCook Time

Save Recipe


  • 2 2/3 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal (instant)
  • salt
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan (optional, omit if vegan)
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 red bell peppers,
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled or diced (optional, omit if vegan)
  • cilantro, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Add vegetables to a large bowl and toss with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add vegetables in a single layer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Cook for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned, tossing after 20 minutes.
  3. Bring water to a boil with salt in a small pot and add polenta slowly while stirring the mixture. Cook for 3 minutes, remove from heat and add the Parmesan.
  4. Add half the vegetables to a food processor. Add tomato paste, and pulse a few times until roughly chopped.
  5. Serve vegetables over the polenta and sprinkle with feta and cilantro.
  6. Recipe Adapted From The Food Network


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    • Vicky says

      Thanks Anita! Will have to order polenta sometime in a restaurant to see what it really is supposed to taste like!

  1. says

    This looks delicious! The roasted veggies look so hearty, I might even be able to pass it by my meat-loving husband.
    As for not being sure about the polenta – I’ve cooked it a lot and would suggest a slightly longer cooking time (more than 3 minutes) to help soften up the meal more. I usually cook for about 10-15 minutes, whisking often to keep it from sticking to the pan. You may have to add a little more liquid as you cook it to get the consistency you want. I also usually use chicken stock (or broth) in place of water to add more flavor. If you try it again and still aren’t sure – you may also want to try a different brand of cornmeal. Not all are the same. (My favorite brand so far is Albers.)

    • Vicky says

      Will have to look out for the Albers brand next time. I’m guessing it’s not “instant” cornmeal as the one I bought was. I didn’t even knew there were different types of cornmeal but I guess I’ll have to examine them more closely next time I’m at the grocery store! Thanks for the chicken broth tip – will try that next time!

  2. says

    It does look wonderful. If you ended up with porridge and wanted something formed, I’m guessing either a bit too much water or like Valley Writer said, it needed a longer cooking time. What really stood out to me is, you used”instant” cornmeal. I looked it up and instant cornmeal is used specifically for polenta and is quick cooking. It’s the first time I’ve heard of it so I’m guessing it changes the measurements or cooking times and that changed your outcome.
    Compare the directions on the bag or box to the recipe directions and see if that solves your problem. It still looks yummy!

    • Vicky says

      Thanks Dee! I’m sure the fact that I used “instant” cornmeal altered the taste of the finished polenta product. Think I’ll have to try cooking it differently next time! Time to experiment!

      • VegasDude says

        YES.. DO NOT USE INSTANT…. I have read thoroughly about Polenta, Just bought Bobs Red Mill Stone Ground Cornmeal.. Must be stone ground.. I am making “my” first attempt… Wish me luck…. Dennis…

        • Vicky says

          Good to know – thanks! Will not be using instant next time! Good luck! Hope your dish turned out well!

  3. says

    Instant polenta has a mushier consistency, and is less flavorful. Regular polenta has more tooth to it, and a more pronounced corn flavor, and takes about 30 minutes of stirring and cooking. Think instant rice vs basmati rice, or instant oatmeal over steel cut oats. I also like to cook my polenta, and my grits in half milk, half water, for a even more creaminess. I think if you give the regular polenta a try you may become a lover. I would love your veggies served over a warm bowl of creamy polenta!

    • Vicky says

      When you add in the comparisons of instant rice to basmati that might explain why I wasn’t too fond of the instead cornmeal polenta. Short cuts are great but sometimes to get the full flavor you really do have to put in the time! I will definitely have to try the real polenta next time!

  4. says

    I love anything served over polenta! I can’t believe that this was your first time using cornmeal. Great job and fabulous recipe! I’ve cooked with cornmeal all of my life and an easy way to remember how to make polenta or grits or other cornmeal creamy dishes, is to use a 4 to 1 ratio. For one cup liquid, use 1/4 cup cornmeal. Works every time! If you really want to use some of that corn flour you have, I just posted a veggie tamale recipe for this challenge. 🙂

    • Vicky says

      Yep first time cooking with and even trying cornmeal! Will definitely have to try the 4 to 1 ratio next time. Heading over to your blog to check out the tamale recipe since I’ve seriously got a huge bag of corn flour I need to use up!

  5. Whitney says

    I LOVE polenta- try cooking it with a combo of chicken stock/milk in place of water and let it cook longer, you wont be disappointed. I usually mix in some parm, or fontina. So yummy!

  6. says

    Your polenta and veggies look fantastic! Another option for the polenta is to let it set after cooking (spread in an oiled baking dish) then slicing and frying – gives a different texture. 🙂

    • Vicky says

      Thanks! Ooo I definitely want to try letting it set next time and then slicing and frying it. Would make for perfect bite sized appetizers topped with the roasted veggies and feta!

  7. Chiara says

    Hi! I love your blog but I never posted a comment before…on this post though I feel like I must. I’m italian and I’m fron the small town polenta originates from (Bergamo). I obviously love it, I’ve been eating it since I was little ’cause it’s a traditional dish here. We usually eat it with meat, or mushrooms. During winter we eat it almost every sunday, with roasted rabbit usually; when my parents were kids, polenta was sometimes everything they had, and they used to eat it even at breakfast, grilled and sprinkled with sugar, with a glass of milk.
    It takes polenta roughly half an hour to be ready, the recipe you used is right (just water – salt – corn meal) but you need to cook it for a longer time. You should also add the corn meal a little at a time, to prevent lumps, and stir it with a wooden ladle. The best thing you could do is cook it in a cauldron (we have a specific kind of cauldron, just for polenta!) and stir it very very often.
    One last advice: you should definitely try polenta taragna. It’s just like polenta but you use a mix of corn meal and buckwheat and when it’s ready you just throw in cheese (we use branzi) and stir it until it’s melted. Delicious. 🙂

    • Vicky says

      Thanks so much for the blog compliments and for teaching me so many new things about polenta! It is always interesting to learn about the origins of a dish and really find out how it is cooked authentically. I definitely added the cornmeal all at once so I’m guessing that probably ruined the texture. When you say buckwheat do you mean buckwheat flour? Or do you grind the buckwheat in the food processor or just add regular buckwheat? My family is Russian so we frequently eat buckwheat and I definitely have some on hand at all times!

      • Chiara says

        Sorry, I meant buckwheat flour! Here you can find the mixture ready to use, but I guess you can mix buckwheat flour with corn meal and achieve the same result…

        • Vicky says

          Thanks for clearing that up! Maybe I’ll try making my own buckwheat flour by processing the buckwheat in the food processor? Hope it works out!

  8. says

    I love polenta! Try cooking it in stock instead of just water to get more flavour in it. And for me, the addition of butter after it is cooked really adds to the creamyness.

    I hope you try it again and enjoy it.

    • Vicky says

      Oh butter always makes everything better! Will have to add butter next time – I actually contemplated added it but didn’t know if that was an appropriate pairing!

    • Vicky says

      Hope you enjoy it! For more polenta cooking tips read through some of the other comments – a few different suggestions there!

  9. says

    I know what you mean about needing certain foods to grow on you. Sometimes once your expectations change, you love it for what it is in a whole new light. I adore polenta, but I think the brand and graininess can make a huge difference. My favorite brand is an organic Argentinian polenta called De La Estancia. It’s very fine and cooks in a minute or two. Once it’s thickened and pulling from the sides, I add in nutritional yeast flakes, a little rice milk, and a handful of sun-dried tomatoes. It’s one of my favorite simple breakfasts.

    • Vicky says

      I will have to look out for that type of polenta next time I’m at the grocery store. I have never cooked with nutritional yeast flakes – do you add a flavor to the dish or is it purely for health recipes those are added?

      • says

        Nutritional yeast flakes are high in B vitamins and also contain protein & fiber, but I like them for their cheesy flavor. They’re delicious sprinkled on popcorn, and my cats love a spoonful of them as a treat. They’re available in the bulk bins at natural grocery stores.

        • Vicky says

          Good to know- thanks! Will have to look out for them at the grocery store next time – I’ve always been curious to see how they taste!

    • Vicky says

      Thanks Bree! Happy to have you following along! I just checked out your blog too for the first time and love it! I also voted for you on the mom entrepreneur competition – absolutely love your idea!

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