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recipes Aran Essig CEC, CCA, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado

Cool Recipe Alert: Polenta-stuffed grilled onions with tomato-basil coulis

Anasazi beans, prized for their speckled red and white color, are often found in refried beans. Here, Executive Chef Aran Essig CEC, CCA, of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, has used the beans as part of the polenta filling in this savory shared plate or appetizer.

YIELD: 25 servings


For stuffed onions:

1 ½ lbs. onions

2 qts. vegetable stock

8 oz. roasted red pepper, pureed

2 tsps. salt

1 tsp. white pepper

12 oz. cornmeal polenta, yellow, medium grind

¼ cup olive oil

10 oz. Anasazi beans, cooked

1 ½ tsps. ground cumin

3 pints tomato-basil coulis (recipe follows)

2 oz. fresh basil


For tomato-basil coulis:

2 Tbsps. olive oil

1 oz. garlic, minced

6 oz. onion, chopped

½ cup tomato paste

1 qt. diced tomatoes

2 cups tomato juice

2 Tbsps. basil, chopped

2 tsps. cilantro

1 Tbsp. oregano 


1. For tomato-basil coulis: In large pan, heat oil. Add garlic and onion and cook until tender. Add tomato paste and cook until mixture caramelizes slightly. Add diced tomatoes and tomato juice. Simmer approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Puree mixture until smooth. Add basil, cilantro and oregano. Hold sauce at 140°F or higher until service.

2. For stuffed onions: Slice onions in half to expose rings. Blanch onion halves in water or steam until tender and layers can easily be separated. Chill and reserve.

3. In large stockpot, heat vegetable stock until boiling. Stir in roasted red pepper puree. Season with salt and pepper. Add polenta and stir; cook over low heat while stirring for 5 minutes. Stir in olive oil, cumin and beans.

4. Separate onion half pieces and stuff polenta mixture into centers. Firmly pack and smooth off the top. Chill to allow polenta to set.

5. Heat grill and grill stuffed onions over medium heat to internal temperature of 165°F. Serve with tomato-basil coulis and garnish with fresh basil.


Photo and recipe: Aran Essig CEC, CCA, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado

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