Cooking with Lola: Polenta Cakes with Roasted Butternut Squash

My alter ego, Lola, is really into cooking lately! Want to cook with her?
Who's in the mood for a fall dish made with mostly local (to me!) ingredients?

Polenta Cakes with Roasted Butternut Squash
In this recipe I use Polenta from Farmer Ground Flour (Trumansburg, NY), cider from Redbyrd Cider (Trumansburg, NY), Peptias from Stony Brook Farm (Geneva, NY), and veg from Sweetland Farm (Trumansburg, NY).

One of the many things I love about this recipe is how versatile it is! You can easily make it gluten or dairy free, or change the topping entirely, like making a ragu, or roasted brussel sprouts, or just slap an egg on there! The chilled polenta also makes AMAZING polenta fries! I did pan fry mine, but I did hear from a few friends who put their polenta in the air fryer... and now I'm researching tops for my instant pot! Who knew?

Oh, and want something extra special? here's my first you-tube cooking show episode! I have no idea when/if there will be another. This was made for my knitting retreat, Knit Ithaca... since we couldn't be in person this year I invited everyone into Lola's Kitchen!


Polenta Cakes with Roasted Butternut Squash

Polenta Cakes

2 cups milk, water, or broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dry polenta
Extra-virgin olive oil  (for frying)
¼ cup all-purpose flour (for frying)

Butternut Squash
1 medium Butternut Squash cut into ½-inch cubes
2 small red onions (or 1 big one) cut into big hunks
1 tablespoon fresh or dried sage, chopped
Splash of apple cider or hard cider (optional)
Salt and black pepper (or hot pepper if you like that!), to taste

Optional Toppings
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Crumbled Goat Cheese
Drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar, Roasted Pumpkin Seed Oil, or other savory delight!

Prepare Polenta
Grease a 9 x 9-inch baking dish generously with olive oil and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, bring the water, milk, and salt to a boil.
A little at a time, slowly whisk in the polenta.
Turn heat to low, and continue whisking for at least 5 minutes or until polenta is smooth and creamy.
Spread polenta into the dish, and set aside to cool. You can place your polenta into the fridge to speed step this up.

While your polenta cools start your topping!

Roast Butternut
Preheat your oven to 425F.
In a rimmed baking sheet toss the butternut squash cubes, hunks of onion, sage, salt and olive oil together.
If desired, drizzle with a bit of apple cider to moisten.
Spread evenly in pan and roast for 15-20 minutes or until it is soft and a bit browned around the edges. You’ll want to stir it up once or twice while it roasts!

Fry Polenta Cakes
Put 1 tablespoon olive oil into a heavy skillet and set over medium heat.
Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, glass, or biscuit cutter, cut out circles of the firm polenta.
Pour a little flour into a plate and coat cakes with the flour on both sides (this step isn’t necessary, but it will help keep your cakes from sticking).
Place these discs in the heated skillet.
Cook until slightly browned and crusty on one side, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook other side.

Place the polenta cakes on a plate, pile with roasted squash mixture, a crumbling of cheese, a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds, and a soup├žon of hot pepper or whatever else you think would taste great. Enjoy!

Leftover roasted squash? Blend it up with some stock and make soup!
Leftover Polenta Cakes? They are GREAT with a fried egg for breakfast!!!!