Sunday Night Dinner: Polenta with Smoky Tomato Sauce, Quick-Roasted Zucchini with Pesto, and Braised Kale

Yesterday afternoon my husband and I went back and forth about what to have for dinner.  After days and days of Thai curry, he was not yet tired of its spicy, seductive ways.  I was craving leafy greens and something tomato-y.  (I won because I’m the one who cooked.  Tonight will be Thai again, and I’m not complaining.  We eat a lot  more Thai since we learned how to make it ourselves.  Mmm.  Stay tuned.)

It’s hot.  It’s the end of June and I didn’t want to turn on the oven or the stove, but the craving would not go away.  (I’m not even pregnant.)  I’m learning to listen to my body and what it needs.  I wanted something comforting and nourishing.  Polenta with a quick-roasted, smoky tomato sauce with a side of braised kale and zucchini with pesto won out.  It was faster to throw together than it sounds.  And it did involve turning on both the stove and oven, but it was worth it.

Polenta with Smoky Tomato Sauce, Zucchini with Pesto, and Braised Kale
original recipe


For Polenta:
10 cup water
2 1/2 cups stone ground cornmeal (polenta)
2 1/4 tsp. salt

For Smoky Tomato Sauce:

8-10 organic roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
a drizzle of olive oil
smoked sea salt**
ground black pepper

For Braised Kale:

1 large bunch kale
1 small onion, thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
a splash of red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

For Quick-Roasted Zucchini with Pesto

1-2 tsp. olive oil
3 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/8-1/4″ rounds
2 Tbsp. prepared pesto


For Polenta:
Bring water to a boil in a large stockpot (6qt). Add the salt and cornmeal. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the polenta is finished cooking, it will start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Pour into a large bowl or 9″ by 13″ glass baking dish that has been lightly oiled with olive oil. Set aside to cool a bit before serving.

For Smoky Tomato Sauce:

Adjust the oven rack to upper middle position and preheat the broiler to low. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a layer of foil. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and rube the cut side of each tomato half in the oil and turn it over, cut-side up. Sprinkle with ground pepper and a bit of smoked sea salt. Broil the tomatoes for about 10 minutes, then turn the broiler up to high for about 3 minutes, until the tomatoes take on a nice color and some of the juices are released. Remove from oven and let cool slightly on the baking sheet. Puree in a blender or food processor. Add a little more smoked salt just before serving.

**Regular sea salt is fine if you are unable to find smoked sea salt or don’t care for the flavor.

For Braised Kale:

Tear the leaves from the stalks and cut into thin strips crosswise. Rinse in cool water and drain well.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a little olive oil (maybe 1 tsp.) and add the onion. Cook the onion until it starts to soften and take on a bit of color. Add the kale and a little of the water; only enough so the kale doesn’t stick to the bottom of the skillet, not too much. Use tongs to turn the kale over so it evenly wilts in the hot pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until for about 5 more minutes, or longer, until it has softened. Add a splash of red wine vinegar. Serve immediately.

For Quick-Roasted Zucchini with Pesto:
Line a baking sheet with foil (or if you already made the tomato sauce, use the same one and the same foil). Drizzle with a little olive oil. Spread the zucchini over the pan in an even layer, turning the rounds over to coat evenly with oil. Broil on low for about 10 minutes, being careful not to let them overcook. Remove the zucchini from the oven and transfer to a bowl. Spoon the pesto over the zucchini and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

To serve:
Spoon some of the polenta onto a plate, top with the smoky tomato sauce and serve with zucchini and kale on the side.

This makes more than enough polenta for one meal.  We like to saute the leftover polenta in a little olive oil in the morning and serve it with a poached egg on top.  And I’m thinking that if there had been any greens leftover, they would be good with the egg too.

What are you cooking up this week?

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  1. What is wrong with me that I hate kale? I don’t even know that I have ever eaten it. But I just feel like it would be horrible in my body?

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