With summer in full swing here in humid North Carolina, easy, low fuss meals are the name of the game. And those meals get major bonus points if they are packed to the brim with summer veggies. Our CSA box is overflowing with produce each and every week, and with just two of us in the house I’m always looking for ways to put all that produce to good use.
So whether you’re overrun with veggies from a CSA box or a garden, or just looking for a fun summer meal, these polenta stacks have you covered. This ratatouille-inspired dish features a simple chunky stew filled with zucchini, yellow squash, bell pepper and diced tomatoes. That stew gets topped with layers of grilled eggplant and polenta, before being finished off with a sprinkle of basil. It’s fresh, light and simple - a perfect summer dinner in my book!
While creamy, porridge-like polenta is an absolute favorite of mine during colder weather, grilling up firm slices is my go-to during the summer so I can still get my polenta fix. And pre-made tubed polenta makes this process super easy—just slice and grill!
You can use whatever flavor of polenta that you’d like here—I’ve tried this dish with a few different options and my personal favorite is sun-dried tomato. But really, you can’t go wrong. If you’ve never purchased logs of polenta before, you can typically find them either in the pasta aisle or in the refrigerated section. It varies from store to store. You can of course also make your own polenta rounds/squares and use that instead!
Additionally, you could also grill the eggplant and polenta on an outdoor grill instead of on a grill pan as directed in the recipe. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to try this myself as our gas grill sadly decided to stop working after a recent move!
For the ratatouille:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium zucchini chopped
- 1 medium yellow squash chopped
- 1 medium orange bell pepper chopped
- 1 14 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch white sugar (organic for vegan-friendly)
- 1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Salt and red pepper flakes to taste
For the ratatouille:
- Add the olive oil to a large skillet set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add in the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender. Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add in the zucchini, squash and bell pepper. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the veggies have softened. Add in the diced tomatoes, oregano and sugar. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the veggies are all tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes.
For the polenta stacks:
- While the ratatouille simmers, set a grill pan over medium high heat and allow it to heat up for several minutes. It is hot enough when a drop of water sizzles on the pan. While the pan is heating, brush the eggplant and polenta slices all over with olive oil, and sprinkle just the eggplant with salt and pepper.
- Working in batches, place the eggplant and polenta slices on the pan in a single layer and cook until tender and charred, flipping once halfway through. The eggplant will take about 3 to 5 minutes per side, and the polenta will take about 3 minutes per side.
- To assemble, divide the ratatouille mixture among 4 shallow bowls. Stack a few slices of the grilled polenta and eggplant in alternating layers on top, then sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve immediately.