Eggplant and Mushroom Polenta Bake

**First picture from original source of recipe (the inside of mine didn’t come out as pretty).
Difficulty: Easy
Total time: 1hr 45 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • For the filling
    • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 1/2 pounds Japanese eggplant, large dice
    • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and mushrooms quartered
    • 1/3 cup dry red wine
    • 1/2 medium yellow onion, small dice
    • 1 teaspoon dried oragano
    • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • Kosher salt
    • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
    • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
    • 1 cup water
    • Freshly ground black pepper
  • For the polenta and to assemble:
    • 3 cups water, plus more as needed
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1 1/2 cups polenta (or coarsely ground cornmeal)
    • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded fontina cheese (about 5 ounces)

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place a large, well-seasoned or enameled cast iron skillet in the oven while it is heating.
  2. Once the oven is heated, carefully drizzle 1 Tablespoon of the oil into the hot skillet and let it heat up for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggplant to the skillet and arrange it in an even layer. Roast until tender and starting to brown, stirring halfway through, about 25 minutes. Using a dry kitchen towel or potholder, carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven by its handle and place it on the stovetop. Use care when hadnling the hot skillet on the stovetop.) Using a spoon, transfer the eggplant to a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Add 1 Tablespoon of the oil to the skillet and place over high heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring rarely, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add the wine, stir to combine, and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated. Reduce the heat to medium low and, using a spoon, transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the eggplant.
  4. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of the skillet and heat until shimmering Add the onion, orangano, and red pepper flakes and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened and is just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
  5. Add the olives and reserve eggplant and mushrooms, along with any accumulated juices in the bowl, and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes and water, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, begin making the polenta. (When the eggplant and mushroom mixture is ready, remove from the heat, taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed; keep warm until the polenta is ready.)

For the polenta and to assemble:

  1. Place the measured water, milk and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and, whisking constantly, slowly pour in the polenta in a thin, steady stream until all of it is incorporated and there are no lumps.
  2. Cook, whisking or stirring with a spoon every few minutes, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan and the grains have softened, about 20 minutes. (If the polenta starts to get too thick before it’s done, add water 1/4 cup at a time as necessary.) Stir in the Parmesan cheese and set aside. Heat the oven to broil and keep the rack in the middle.
  3. Pour the polenta over the eggplant and mushroom mixture and spread it into a smooth, even layer. Evenly sprinkle the fontina over the polenta. Place the skillet in the oven and boil until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

*I don’t have a cast iron skillet, so I used a oven safe pan. If your pan has a plastic handle wrap it with foil to make it oven safe.

~Recipe from Chow.com

Pumpkin Season

My husband and I took on the challenge of finding the best pumpkin beer! I picked up 6 varieties at my local liquor store and he was the rests:

*I marked my husbands notes with (S)

Elysian: Night Owl

Bottle Description: Brewed with pumpkin, roasted and raw pumpkin seeds, and spiced in conditioning nutmeg, clove cinnamon, ginger, and allspice.

Our Tasting Notes:

Smell: light pumpkin, cinnamon (S: pumpkin pie)

Taste: cinnamon forward, malty finish (S: not hoppy, malty, spices aren’t too strong)

Dogfish Head: Punkin Ale

Bottle Description: Brown Ale brewed with pumpkin and spices

Our Tasting Notes:

Smell: No real pumpkin aroma, pear/apricot, similar to an Oktoberfest (S: a little spice, but not distinct)

Taste: Malty, coriander, nutmeg (S: brighter in profile to the Night Owl, vague pumpkin spice)

Lakefront Brewery: Pumpkin Lager

Bottle Description: Lager brewed with real pumpkin and spices

Our Tasting Notes:

Smell: Brown sugar, pumpkin (S: some pumpkin, some nutmeg)

Taste: Dark malt, brown sugar, molasses (S: a little sweet, no bitterness, some nutmeg)

Blue Moon: Harvest Pumpkin Wheat

Bottle Description: Brewed with real pumpkin and spices

Our Tasting Notes:

Smell: Brown malt (S: no pumpkin or spice)

Taste: Malty, slight pumpkin, cinnamon after taste (S: no real pumpkin spice)

Shipyard Brewery: Pumpkinhead

Bottle Description: Ale with natural flavors added

Our Tasting Notes:

Smell: strong coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, vanilla (S: coriander)

Taste: cinnamon, not brown ale, lighter in character, slight hop finish (S: very light, not bitter, some spice, mild overall, a little brown sugar)

New Belgium: Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin

Bottle Description: Pumpkin Ale featuring cinnamon and habanero chili peppers for just the right amount of heat.

Our Tasting Notes:

Smell: Honey (S: not much spice, honey)

Taste: Honey, slight pumpkin front, spice chili pepper finish (S: spicy…literally. Heat is not unbearable. slightly sweet at first, not hoppy, finishes with heat)

Mikaila’s ranking order:

  1. Elysian, Night Owl
  2. Lakefront, Pumpkin Lager
  3. Shipyard, Pumpkin Head
  4. Blue Moon, Harvest Pumpkin Wheat
  5. Dogfish Head, Punkin Ale
  6. New Belgium, Atomic Pumpkin

Scott’s Ranking Order:

  1. Elysian, Night Owl
  2. Dogfish Head, Punkin Ale
  3. Lakefront, Pumpkin Lager
  4. Blue Moon, Harvest Pumpkin Wheat
  5. Shipyard, Pumpkin Head
  6. New Belgium, Atomic Pumpkin

I hope this helps pick your perfect pumpkin beer this season! Enjoy responsibly!

xoxo, Mikaila