Sun-dried Tomato and Sausage Polenta

Do you find that some foods just never get the attention or love they deserve?  Do you have a personal favourite that you feel falls too far beneath the radar?  For me, one of those foods is polenta.  While polenta is a popular food with hundreds of years of history behind it, I can’t think of a single vegan restaurant in Toronto that serves it (please correct me if I’m wrong about that – if there is, I’d love to try it).  Extremely filling, satisfying, consisting of only a few ingredients, and relatively easy to prepare and veganize, it is a meal that should be a part of every vegan cook’s repertoire.  

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For those uninitiated into the magic of this dish, polenta is made from boiled cornmeal. Typically butter and salt are added once it’s cooked.  It can be served as a kind of porridge.  If porridge doesn’t exactly make your mouth water, polenta, when prepared properly has an almost a risotto-like creaminess to it.  It could also be cooled into a block or loaf and used to make things like polenta poutine (recipe here) Store-bought polenta usually comes in this form, and this is how I was first introduced to it, but the benefit of making it from scratch is that you have more control over the flavour.

The one real trick to polenta is that it has to be carefully monitored and constantly stirred, otherwise it will burn very quickly.

Ingredients
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
400g package of vegan sausage, chopped (I used Beyond Meat)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of spinach, chopped|
300g jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of fine ground cornmeal
2 tsp of salt
2 tsp of pepper

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Directions

For the polenta topping:
1.  In a large frying pan, heat the 1 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium heat.
2.  Add the chopped sausage to the pan. You want them to crisp up a bit before adding the vegetables, which, depending on the brand, is usually 5 or 6 minutes.
3. Drain the oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes into a separate dish and set aside.  You may wish to chop the sun-dried tomatoes as well – some people prefer the texture of smaller chunks.
4.  Add the chopped bell pepper and spinach and mix it all together.  Cook until the spinach is wilted ( -5-10 minutes) and then remove from heat.

For the polenta:
1.  In a medium sauce pan, bring the 4 cups of vegetable broth, then reduce to a simmer.
2.  Add the 1 cup of polenta and start stirring.  I’ve found the cooking time can vary quite a bit.  Some say it takes 45 minutes to cook polenta, but in my experience it’s more like 20 minutes, but it may depend on the brand of cornmeal – some have added ingredients to help them cook faster.  Regardless. the best way to determine cooking time is to just keep any eye on the polenta.  If the broth is all absorbed and the cornmeal has lost its tough outer texture, then it’s ready!
3.  Mix in the oil you drained from the sundried tomatoes, along with 2 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of pepper.
4.  Top the polenta with the sundried tomato mixture and serve.

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