Vegetables are rarely my focus when cooking in the kitchen but I have grown tired of the green bean, broccoli or brussel sprout casserole variations that dominate holiday tables. Butternut squash came to mind, roasted, perhaps pureed but not just a spiced puree in a dish. Thinking of Shepard's pie I decided it need a raft but not potatoes as those are already on the table. Idea! - Polenta. Next it needed another vegetable as this is a vegetarian contest so mushrooms were chosen. Any variety would do but I already had Bellas in the kitchen. It is fall so lets through a an apple in for some natural sweetness. Some more flavor for the top brought leeks into the picture and the spectacular flavor and crunchy texture of hazelnuts. A dash of cheese and our casserole was made. Most of this can be made a day in advance and then just a quick baking once the turkey (real or tofu) is out of the oven. My only disappointment was the strong color impact of the mushrooms on the mixture. You could increase the squash and cut back on the mushroom for a more colorful layer. This is hearty enough for a whole meal. —Threemealsaday
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with 1 tablespoon of EVOO. Place the 1 to 2 inch prepared butternut squash pieces on the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Once cooked set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a 6 quart sauce pan combine the milk, water, salt pepper and sage. Bring to a boil and slowly add the polenta stirring it thoroughly. Reduce to simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed stirring to minimize sticking to the bottom.
Prepare a 9x13 casserole pan and pour the polenta into the pan. Smooth into an even bed with a spatula and allow to cool.
Slice mushroom to 1/4 inch thick pieces. Core the apple and chop to 1/2 inch dice. In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add the 2 tablespoons EVOO. Add mushroom, thyme and apples and sautee for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large food processor add the squash and mushroom mixture. Blend until the mushroom are finely chopped. Spread the mixture evenly over the polenta.
At this point you could prepare all of the above a day in advance and chill in the refrigerator.
Toast the hazelnuts until lightly browned. Set aside. Preheat oven to 325 F.
Slice the white and light green parts of the leeks into 1/4 inch slices. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add the remaining EVOO and leeks. Saute for 10 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Spread leeks over the squash mixture.
Top the casserole with the nuts and the cheese. Bake for 20 minutes at 325 F. Serve warm.