This polenta dish is peppered with rich sautéed cauliflower florets and sweet onions, giving it a wonderfully creamy moist texture. Paired with the ever popular green spears and crunchy toasted hazelnuts, here is a delicious meatless entrée for a celebratory dinner or a side dish for brunch or an elegant buffet.
Polenta Cauliflower Torta With Roasted Asparagus [Vegan, Gluten-Free]
For the Cauliflower:
- 3 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower florets and stems
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 to 2 sweet onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine
For the Polenta:
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/4 cups coarse polenta cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 bunches asparagus
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon large flake sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
To Make the Cauliflower:
- Steam the cauliflower pieces over boiling water until they are tender but still a little firm, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté the onions on medium heat until they begin to show a bit of golden color.
- Stir in the steamed cauliflower, salt, and first teaspoon of thyme; raise the heat to medium-high. Continue to sauté until the cauliflower begins to show color in places. Stir in the Marsala. Remove from heat and set aside.
To Make the Polenta and Assemble:
- Put the vegetable broth and water, polenta cornmeal, olive oil, salt, and Aleppo pepper in the pressure cooker or cook the polenta on the stove top according to package instructions. For the pressure cooker method, do not stir, lock lid, and cook on porridge setting with time adjusted to 7 minutes. Natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then vent to release the pressure completely.
- Immediately whisk the cooked onions and cauliflower, the nutritional yeast, and the Aleppo pepper into the polenta.
- Brush a round casserole or shallow bowl with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Spread the hot polenta cauliflower mixture into the casserole, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until set, about an hour (At this point, you can refrigerate the polenta in its dish for a day or so).
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Lightly brush the back side of a baking sheet with oil or spray with cooking spray. Invert the molded polenta onto the baking sheet. Brush the top with olive oil and bake 40-45 minutes until the torta shows nice golden color. If the uncooked torta is cold, you will need to increase the baking time 5-10 minutes or finish under the broiler.
- Wash the asparagus and snap off the tough ends of the stalks. Setting aside 12 pieces for the top, cut the rest in 2-inch lengths. Place on a tea towel to dry away most of the moisture, then toss both the lengths and pieces with olive oil, salt, and about 20 grinds of black pepper.
- Spread the asparagus on a baking sheet. Roast 15-25 minutes, until the tips begin to blister and brown, shaking the pan halfway through. Roasting time will depend on the thickness of the stalks.
- Transfer the hot polenta onto a large serving platter. Arrange the asparagus lengths on top and surround with the cut pieces. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and toasted hazelnuts.