Well, here we are, smack in the middle of winter.
It’s still weeks before those pre-spring rituals that make winter seem less dreary — spring training, Valentine’s Day, Lenten fish fries.
We can’t do anything about it except curl up on the couch, hunker down and enjoy the foods that make this time of year bearable — comfort foods like soups, stews and casseroles that are hearty enough to keep us warm and content until we turn the calendar a page closer to spring.
Try this easy casserole from the new Southern Living Feel Good Food, which includes plenty of winter comforts like this cheesy beefy dish with a polenta crust.
For a change, you can make this dish with Italian sausage instead of beef, which goes great over the polenta base.
TOMATO ’N’ BEEF CASSEROLE WITH POLENTA CRUST
1 tsp. salt
1 cup plain yellow cornmeal
½ tsp. Montreal steak seasoning
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 lb. ground chuck
1 cup chopped onion
1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced, about 2 cups
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring 3 cups water and 1 tsp. salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in cornmeal; reduce heat to low, and simmer, whisking constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in steak seasoning and ¼ cup cheddar cheese. Spread cornmeal mixture into a lightly greased 11-by-7-inch baking dish.
Brown ground chuck in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 10 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink; drain and transfer to a bowl.
Saute onion and zucchini in hot oil in skillet over medium heat 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in beef, tomatoes and tomato paste; simmer, stirring often, 10 minutes. Pour beef mixture over cornmeal crust. Sprinkle with remaining ¾ cup of cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle casserole with parsley just before serving.
Makes 6 servings.
Note: Substitute Italian sausage for ground chuck, and Italian six-cheese blend for cheddar. Prepare recipe as directed, sauteing 1 medium size green bell pepper, chopped, with the onion.
— Southern Living Feel Good Food