This cumin-spiced stew is good alone but even better served over a bed of soft polenta. And the color schemethe earthy tan and gold of the stew against the yellow of the polentacouldn’t be more fetching. For best results, make stew a few hours ahead and let sit. Taste and see if it needs a pinch of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice or both. If you don’t have vegetable broth on hand, use 3 cups water and one vegetable bouillon cube.
In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, flour, cumin, chili powder and coriander and cook, stirring often, 1 minute.
Stir in broth, squash, potato, corn, bay leaf and salt. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover partially and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, cinnamon and pepper; cover partially and simmer gently until flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
About 35 minutes before you plan to eat, make soft polenta. When it is almost done, rewarm stew over low heat.
Spoon portions of polenta into large, shallow soup bowls, making wide depression in center. Spoon some stew into each depression, garnish with chopped bell pepper and serve right away.