Balsamic-glazed roasted brussels sprouts with mushroom-thyme polenta (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian)

Winter brussels sprouts are a treat because chilly weather brings out their sweetness, which is enhanced by the balsamic glaze. As a shortcut, this dish uses packaged cooked polenta that comes in a log, but you can make polenta from scratch instead.

Ingredients
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • red onion, half diced and half thinly sliced
  • mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • jalapeño chile, thinly sliced (optional)
  • olive tapenade or chopped olives
  • store-bought cooked polenta in a log, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • balsamic vinegar
  • fresh or dried thyme leaves
Method
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the diced onion, mushrooms, and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned. Stir in a heaping tablespoonful of the tapenade, the polenta cubes, and enough water to almost cover. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often and mashing the polenta cubes against the side of the pan, until the polenta becomes a porridge.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Toss the sprouts and sliced onions with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the brussels sprouts and sliced onions until browned in spots, about 20 minutes.
  3. In a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, warm the balsamic vinegar until it thickens slightly. Pour in the brussels sprouts and sliced onions, sprinkle with the thyme, and toss to coat.
  4. Scoop the polenta into bowls, top with the brussels sprout mixture, and serve.
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Olive, garlic + rosemary grits topped with greens in spicy tomato sauce (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Here is a hearty, simple weekday meal, or turn it into a weekend brunch by topping with an egg or two. You can make the sauce a day ahead and cook the greens in the sauce just before serving. Any leftover tomatoey greens taste great over grains or pasta. Inspired by the grits at Kafe Leopold in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Ingredients
  • One-Step Tomato Sauce
  • red pepper flakes
  • garlic cloves, minced, or granulated garlic
  • water and/or unsweetened milk of choice (such as coconut, soy, almond, or rice milk)
  • white or yellow corn grits, such as Bob’s Red Mill brand, or coarse polenta
  • olive tapenade or pitted Kalamata olives or green olives, chopped
  • fresh rosemary leaves
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • greens (kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or beet tops), stems discarded and leaves cut into ribbons
  • fresh basil, shredded
Method
  1. Make the tomato sauce. Stir in the red pepper flakes and half of the garlic, turn the heat to low, and keep warm, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a saucepan, bring water and/or milk (3 parts liquid to 1 part grits) to a simmer. Stir in the grits and bring back to a simmer. Stir in the olive tapenade, the rosemary, and the remaining garlic and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits are completely soft. Stir in half of the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to low and keep warm, stirring occasionally.
  3. Raise the heat on the tomato sauce, add the greens, and cook to your preferred doneness. Stir in the basil and remaining parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. To serve, ladle the grits into individual bowls and top with the tomatoey greens.

Panfried polenta topped with fresh tomato sauce, herbs + pine nuts (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Using store-bought precooked polenta in a log, all you need to do is slice and panfry (or broil oil-tossed slices) until crispy. The fresh tomato sauce comes together in no time and is poured over when ready to serve. This dish is tasty as is, but it is also versatile, taking on a different flavor profile depending on which additional optional topping you choose. (Inspired by a recipe by Naturally Ella)

Ingredients
  • packaged precooked polenta log
  • avocado oil, coconut oil, or other high-temperature oil
  • fresh basil leaves
  • fresh parsley
  • mixed fresh regular, grape, and cherry tomatoes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • toasted or raw pine nuts
  • toppings (optional): hummus, lemon juice, avocado, olive tapenade, salsa verde, harissa, Sriracha, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, yogurt, cheese
Method
  1. Line a plate with paper towels.
  2. Thinly slice the polenta, about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick.
  3. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the avocado oil. Carefully add the polenta slices (watch out for the oil spattering). Panfry, undisturbed—very important or the polenta slices will turn to mush—until the oil no longer bubbles around the slices (indicating that the liquid in the slices has evaporated) and lifting a crispy slice with a spatula is easy, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side until both sides are crispy. Place the slices on the paper towels to drain.
  4. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the herbs. Cut the regular tomatoes into eighths and halve the grape and cherry tomatoes.
  5. In the same frying pan over medium heat, add the tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. When the tomatoes release their juices, stir in some red pepper flakes, the chopped herbs, and a few grindings of black pepper.
  6. Arrange the polenta slices on a serving platter in a single layer. Pour the tomato-herb sauce evenly over the polenta, top with pine nuts, and serve, allowing each person to choose from the optional additional toppings.