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Polenta Cauliflower Torta with Roasted Asparagus | Letty's Kitchen
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4.38 from 8 votes

Polenta Cauliflower Torta with Roasted Asparagus

Cauliflower gives his baked meatless torta a moist lightness. This recipe explains how to cook polenta fast and easy, either in the Instant Pot pressure cooker or in the microwave oven.
Keep in mind that soft hot polenta cornmeal sets up quickly, the second you pour it into the mold. This means the cauliflower and onions need to be cooked and seasoned, ready to stir into the thickened polenta.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Resting time15 mins
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keyword: Instant Pot, Instant Pot, pressure cooker
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 218kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower florets and their stems, from ½ head
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 sweet onions, chopped, about 3 cups
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine (see note)

The polenta:

  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups coarse polenta cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces finely grated Manchego cheese, about 1 cup, or 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast to keep it vegan

To serve:

  • 2 bunches asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon large flake sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup toasted hazelnuts coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, optional

Instructions

Cook the vegetables first:

  • 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 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.

Cook the polenta:

  • Prepare a 10-inch springform pan--brush the sides and bottom with olive oil, or spray generously with cooking spray.

To cook polenta in the Instant Pot:

  • Put the vegetable broth and water, polenta cornmeal, olive oil, salt, and Aleppo pepper in the Instant Pot.  Do not stir. Lock lid. Cook on Porridge setting with time adjusted to 7 minutes. Natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then vent to release the pressure completely.

To cook polenta in the microwave oven:

  • Combine the water, vegetable broth, salt, polenta, olive oil, and Aleppo pepper in a microwave-proof bowl. Cover and cook on highest power for five minutes. Stir, cover again and cook for another five minutes. Stir in the sauteed vegetables and if using, the cheese, cover again and cook for three more minutes. 

Add the cauliflower and bake:

  • When the polenta is done, immediately whisk in the cooked onions and cauliflower, the grated cheese or nutritional yeast. Spread the hot polenta cauliflower mixture into the well-oiled 10-inch springform pan, cover with plastic wrap directly on top of the polenta, 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.
  • Brush the top of the torta with olive oil and bake 40 to 45 minutes, until it takes on a nice golden color. (If the uncooked torta is cold, you will need to increase the baking time 5 to 10 minutes or finish under the broiler.)
  • Cool 10 to 15 minutes before cutting, to let the hot torta set.
  • 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 on a baking sheet. Roast 15 to 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.

To serve:

  • Remove the ring from the springform pan and transfer to a large serving platter. Alternatively, leave the torta on the springform bottom and set on a serving platter. Arrange the roasted asparagus lengths on top and surround with the cut pieces. Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts, and if you have it, chopped fresh thyme.

Notes

  • Firm molded polenta can rest in the fridge up to several days before baking.
  • Keep it vegan: Instead of the cheese, stir 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast into the polenta.
  • For cooking polenta without an Instant Pot or microwave oven, follow these links: Traditional stand-at-the-stove-stirring method or the easier oven method.
  • A feasible substitute for sweet marsala is 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine mixed with 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar. For non-alcoholic substitute, use 1 1/2 tablespoons white grape juice plus 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar.

Nutrition

Calories: 218kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 645mg | Potassium: 356mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 873IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 3mg