I'm not sure what to call this dish. Many months ago, Clotide at Chocolate & Zucchini created a Zucchini Polenta Tart that I made and quite enjoyed.
I began to think of ways to work the idea of the polenta disc into other dishes. During Christmas, we had a hunt for Southern style self-rising cornmeal that ended up with us getting two round boxes of Quaker cornmeal, one white, one yellow. Now, anyone who has seen Alton Brown's Good Eats episode on cornmeal knows that polenta and grits and cornmeal are kissing cousins if not identical twins. I convinced myself that I had in my pantry the makings of a culinary delight.
Armed with this knowledge, I set out to make a polenta based two layer cake with zucchini and summer squash. I made this as a soft polenta cake, but I've provided theory for how to make a crispy version of this dish as well. Try it out and let me know how it goes.
Zucchini and Summer Squash Polenta Cake
2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups water or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound zucchini, ends trimmed
2 pounds summer squash, ends trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1 cup shredded mozarella
2 9 inch cake pans, greased and lined with parchment
1 baking sheet, big enough to handle 9" cake covered with aluminum foil
Prep your cake pans and baking sheet as noted above. Trim excess parchment off cake pans.
Using a mandoline or super-human skill, slice all the zucchini and summer squash exceedingly thin.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large saucepan, boil 6 cups water/stock. Add salt and oil to water/stock and stir vigorously. Reduce heat to medium. Add two cups cornmeal and 2 teapsoons dried basil and half teaspoon of black pepper to the water/stock and stir constantly. The cornmeal thickens up quickly but requires stirring to avoid lumps. Crush lumps as you find them.
After five minutes, pour half the polenta/mush into each cake pan. Spread evenly with a spatula and level out as much as possible. Put cake pans in oven and bake 15-20 minutes until top of polenta take on a golden color.
Heat one tablespoon of oil in a skillet and add the garlic. Heat oil with garlic in it for three minutes until garlic scent develops. Add the zucchini and toss with garlic and oil over medium heat. Add tablespoon of red wine vinegar and toss again. Cover and let sautee/steam for five minutes until zucchini is wilted and fairly soft. Taste and add salt/pepper to suit. Remove and set aside in a colander to let the zucchini drain.
Heat two tablespoon of oil in skillet. Add the summer squash and toss with oil. Add tablespoon of soy sauce, tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. Toss with summer squash and cover. Let steam/sautee for ten minutes until soft. Taste and add salt/pepper to suit. Remove and set aside in a colander to let the squash drain.
Once the cakes have gone golden brown, remove from oven. Cake should feel springly but firm. If not firm, return to oven and bake longer. Once firm and springy let cakes cool for ten minutes.
Invert cake pan and transfer first polenta cake to baking sheet upside down. You may need to put your hand on the cake to keep it from splattering out. Ease the cake onto the baking sheet.
Mix the zucchini in a bowl with 1/2 cup parmesan and 1/4 cup mozarella. Spread mix over first cake. Invert the second cake pan and ease the second cake on top of the first one.
Mix the summer squash in a bowl with 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup mozarella. Spread mix over the top of the cake and top with last 1/4 cup mozarella.
Raise heat in oven to 425 F. Bake cake for five minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 350 and bake 10 minutes more. Top of the cake should be golden brown.
Remove cake from oven. Slide aluminum foil and cake onto a cutting board or other flat surface. It's important to get the cake off the sheet pan which retains heat from the oven. Let the cake cool 20 minutes before slicing.
If you want to watch the magic of solidification, take a slice out early. The first slice will probably be more like pudding than cake. After twenty-thirty minutes, you should be able to get a nice cohesive slice out. Cut into 12 slices.
This cake is filling so you won't need much more than a single slice and a small salad to satisfy you.
If you'd like to try the crispy version, halve the water and polenta so you end up with thinner disks of polenta which should get crispier in the oven. Send us a picture if you try it.