Comfort Food: a type of food that makes you want to curl up in your faithful old pair of sweatpants with a plate of —– while a feeling of gastronomic bliss rushes over you. That’s my definition of comfort food anyway, and the three things that I would put in that empty space are macaroni & cheese, risotto, and polenta. Those three things make me feel that all is right with the world when I eat them. The mac & cheese and risotto recipes will definitely make an appearance at a later date, but today I’m including one of my favorite ways to eat polenta- mixed with cheese and all sorts of flavorful Mexican ingredients and melted inside a pepper until bubbly and ready to accompany you to the couch with those comfy sweatpants.
I usually halve this recipe, since it is just the two of us. We have never made the full recipe, so I’m not sure how they would taste leftover. They are fantastic right out of the oven in all their gooey goodness. Red peppers make the prettiest contrast since yellow and orange peppers blend in with the polenta, as you can see in the pictures below. It’s up to you though, they all taste delicious! Try to find squatty peppers that stand on their own, instead of tall, skinny ones which are harder to clean out and can flop over easily. This recipe is hard to mess up, and every time I make it it’s a bit different. Sometimes I add less cheese, more chiles, lots of hot pepper flakes, or more cilantro. It just depends on my mood. You could omit the cheese and use soy milk to make it vegan, or add grilled chicken or chorizo if you want to add meat.
Adapted from Peace Meals
6 small red bell peppers, tops removed, seeds and membranes discarded. (scrape out the membranes & seeds with a spoon)
¾ cup dry polenta
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
½ cup half-and-half
7 oz canned diced green chiles- I like the ones labeled “hot”.
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing
1 ½ cups loosely packed cheddar cheese (pepper jack is also good)
*reserve some cheese to top the peppers with
½ cup grated Mexican cotija cheese (or substitute freshly grated Parmesan)
15 oz can of black beans, rinsed & drained
*optional: red pepper flakes (we throw these in everything)
Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the prepared peppers in a lightly oiled 9 x 13 baking dish. Whisk together the polenta, garlic, 2 cups of water, salt and pepper in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, for 5-7 minutes or until the polenta thickens and is creamy. Stir in the half and half, chiles, cilantro, and cheeses, blending well. Place about 1 tablespoon of black beans in the bottom of the peppers, then stir the rest of the black beans into the polenta. Divide the polenta mixture among the peppers, and top each with a little bit of the reserved cheese.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Garnish with cilantro and red pepper flakes if desired.
note to my health conscious readers; the next post will have no butter or cheese and would make vegans and non-vegans alike jump for joy when tasted. I did.