Sunday, September 5, 2010

Polenta Notso-Deep-Dish Pizza

Recipes for polenta pizza have popped every now and again in my searches for dinner ideas. In the mood for pizza, but lacking any crust options (I’ve used bagels, English muffins, tortillas, and pitas all with satisfying results), I decided to test the waters and try my hand at making a deep dish polenta pizza. Please note that I have never successfully executed making polenta from scratch using cornmeal, so I certainly was challenging myself in making this!

Despite the odds being stacked against me (and my pizza to-be), this pie came out of the oven and satisfied my craving (albeit a little less "deep" thank I'd hoped). Even the biggest healthy food critic (and unhealthy food fanatic) nodded his head in approval. It certainly is not the same as Giordano’s, but it is much lighter and offers a break from the traditional heavy, doughy pizza crust.

Furthermore, in comparison to standard pizza dough, cornmeal as a crust also offers more bang-for-your buck nutrient-wise.

“New research published in October’s issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reveals significant health benefits in milled yellow corn products, such as corn meal, grits and corn flour. The study, authored by Mario Ferruzzi, Ph.D., associate professor, department of food science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., demonstrates milled yellow corn products are rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids, such as lutein. Carotenoids are yellow and orange plant pigments known for their association in the prevention of chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.

"Additionally, carotenoid levels in milled corn products can be more than 50 per cent bioaccessible, or available for absorption after digestion. The process of milling corn products makes key vitamins and nutrients more easily bio-available than they would be from many other foods.” (Source: Baking Management)
The Stuff:
  • medium saucepan
  • 8-inch pie pan
The Edibles:
  • non-stick olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • sea salt
  • ½ c. frozen chopped spinach
  • ¾ c. shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
  • ¼ c. mushrooms, coarsely chopped (half of a 4 oz. can)
  • ½ c. of your favorite marinara sauce
  • ½ tsp. dried Italian spice blend
The Making:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spritz a 8-inch pie pan with olive oil non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium saucepan place 3 cups water seasoned with garlic power and a pinch of sea salt. Bring just about to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and add cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming. Turn heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 or 15 minutes. If mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want a consistency approaching thick oatmeal.
  3. Spoon your newly formed polenta into prepared pie pan, working quickly so that the mixture does not stiffen. Spread it evenly to a thickness of about 1/2 inch over the bottom and sides of the pan.
    Optional: Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and put it in refrigerator until it is firm, an hour or more (you can refrigerate polenta overnight if you prefer). I note that this is optional because by the time I got around to the next step, my polenta was super-firm.
  4. Put polenta in oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it begins to brown and crisp on edges. Meanwhile, microwave frozen spinach until thawed. Squeeze out excess water and set aside.
  5. Remove polenta from oven, sprinkle with half of the cheese. Disperse spinach and mushrooms evenly over the top of the cheese. Spread marinara sauce over the top of the veggies. Cover the marinara with the remaining cheese and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Place pizza back in oven for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, two minutes, or until cheese begins to golden.
  6. Cut into slices and serve to curious guests with a fork. Refrigerate leftovers for a delightful treat the following day!

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