Roast veggies are great. Things covered with cheese are great. Acting on a crazy theory, I put these two things together in an impromptu dish that ended up receiving rave reviews! It must be a full moon or something. Anyway, here’s a quick recipe, by popular demand:
Cut up medium size chunks of the following: one golden beet, one carrot, several cloves of garlic, and a shallot (see footnote). Roast with copious amounts of olive oil, pepper, and kosher salt at 450 for 50 – 60 mins. When you have about 15 minutes left, chop up, de-stem, and sautee one bunch of kale on medium-high, until it is wilting nicely. Season the kale with some theatrical dashes of white wine vinegar, which should make a satisfying hiss when it hits the pan. Arm your guests with cheese graters, or bust out your roommate’s food processor, to grate up about 4 oz of mozarella cheese and 4 oz of parmesan. Like puns, it’s really the cheesier the better here. Cube or crumble up some polenta for texture. (Polenta, an Italian corn meal paste, is one of the easiest alternative starches for those of you who dare defy the rice-pasta-potato trifecta.)
Once the veggies in the oven appear something like 80% roasted, combine them in a bowl with the kale, polenta, and about three quarters of the cheese. You could add red chili pepper flakes or other seasoning here if you like, though I didn’t. Distribute the mixture into a small casserole dish or loaf pan, then sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and a generous layer of breadcrumbs. Lower the oven temperature to 375-400ish and bake the thing until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and cheese is bubbly.
I served this with a mixed salad including raw snap peas. This was especially fortuitous because the peas produced a fresh, crunchy contrast to the rich and gooey cheese. We also had peanut butter cups for desert, almost always a good idea.
NB: For the uninitiated, shallots look and taste like a kind of funny combination of garlic and onion. Sometimes people use them instead of onion because their flavor is a lot more mellow and they take less time to cook. Unfortunately, shallots come with a couple built-in disadvantages. First, they cost considerably more per pound than onions. Also, like garlic, each shallot “bulb” contains multiple shallot “cloves” — individually wrapped, if you will. This gives rise to some ambiguity when a recipe calls for a shallot, because it’s often unclear whether this refers to a shallot clove or an entire bulb. In this case, go ahead and use the whole shallot bulb.