Tag Archives: polenta

Crochet-topped kitchen towels and Jack Bishop’s Polenta with Lentils in Tomato Sauce

I am back.

EPC and I were away on holidays and then we both caught a cold.  Not by choice, of course, so perhaps it is more accurate to say the cold caught up with us!  Anyway, there is nothing worse than a summer cold.  So,  although we returned home last week, I didn’t get around to cooking anything blog-worthy until this past weekend.

We had a good time on our holiday. We went to Saskatoon, the “Paris of the Prairies”, and spent our time hanging out with friends and relaxing. I went to the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market where I was able to pick up some handmade crochet-topped kitchen towels and a couple of beautiful aprons. We also cooked up some fresh asparagus that evening on the BBQ – delicious!

If any of you plan on heading to Saskatoon this summer, aside from visiting the farmer’s market, I suggest stopping in at Museo – the coffee shop adjacent to the Medel Art Gallery and Conservatory.  They have wonderful lattes and serve almond butter with their toasted bagels!  The gallery is located along the South Saskatchewan River and is adjacent to the wonderful Meewasin Trail system.   It you keep walking along the trail towards downtown you will come to the Victoria Street Bridge.  Just across this bridge from downtown is Las Palapas restaurant.  Here I had some wonderful pozole soup. The great thing about Las Palapas, other than the food, is that it is located right next to Homestead Ice Cream. They have traditional flavours and some unique ones like Avocado, Roses and Honey, and Dill Pickle (can you believe it?). I stuck with the slightly more traditional Butter Brickle and Dad’s Oatmeal Cookie on top of my cone.

Of course I can’t forget Christie’s Bakery on Saskatoon’s west side (they are opening a second location on Broadway this summer). We picked up a delicious Saskatoon berry pie, some wonderful lemon tarts, and a monstrous loaf of potato bread.

Yes, I certainly ate a lot on our trip! Which in why we stuck to simple hearty meals when we returned.

Now that I got our trip to Saskatoon out my system, onto the Jack Bishop part of the post.

I found out about Jack Bishop from a blog that I love to read: Cook and the Books. In one of her posts she recommended that readers check out his Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen cookbook, which I did, and then I promptly checked out his Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook from the library as well. It was hard to pick a recipe, but I settled on Polenta with Lentils and Tomato Sauce.  It was fantastic, simple to make and very flavourful. As I am sure you can tell by the photo, it is also an impressive meal to serve guests.

Because it was so warm out this past weekend, I broiled the polenta in our toaster oven, which took a little longer than it would have in the oven, but delicious all the same. I think if you were in a rush you could get away with canned lentils and store-bought polenta, but make the recipe as is if you can.

Polenta with Lentils and Tomato Sauce

1 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained
1 bay leaf
4 medium garlic cloves,  (2 whole and 2 minced)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 celery stalk, peeled and finely diced
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons of parsley, minced
Freshly grated Parmesan for garnish

  • Bring 8 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan and add the lentils, bay leaf and 2 whole cloves of garlic.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender – about 25 minutes
  • While the lentils are simmering you can prepare the polenta – see below
  • When the lentils are tender drain and discard the bay leaf and garlic cloves.
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion, carrot and celery until tender – about 10 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the lentils and cook for 2 minutes until the sauce is heated and the flavours have mingled.
  • Stir in the parsley and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Spoon the lentils over 3 polenta triangles, garnish with cheese and serve.

    Polenta:

    • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan.
    • When the water comes to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt and  lower the heat to medium
    • Slowly whisk the cornmeal into the pot in a steady stream.  This should take about 1 minute.  If you add the cornmeal to quickly it will form lumps.
    • Whisk the cornmeal continuously to prevents lumps and simmer until the polenta starts to thicken – about 1 to 2 minutes.
    • Reduce the heat to low and cook very slowly, stirring frequently for 15 minutes.
    • Pour into a lightly oiled 8 x 12 pan, smooth the top and let cool.
    • You can make this the day before and keep in the fridge covered in plastic wrap.
    • When the polenta has cooled and is firm (about 30 minutes), turn the polenta onto a cutting board and cut into 8 squares.  Cut each square in half to form a triangle.
    • Place on a baking sheet and spray each triangle lightly with oil and broil until lightly browned.  Turn and broil the second side.

    Click to Print

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    Madhur Jaffrey’s Besan, or Polenta with an Eastern Flair

    By the time the end of the workweek roles around the two of us are often too tired to do much of anything other than eat dinner, relax, go for a walk, and then go to bed.  This Friday night we decided to spice it up and head down to Whyte Ave for a short walk and a trip to Chapter’s to browse the bookshelves.

    Lucky for me EPC wanted to head over to Planet Organic to pick up a snack from the deli.  That meant we could also pop into Greenwood’s Bookstore (they have a much better vegetarian cookbook selection than the Whyte Ave Chapter’s, at least in my opinion).  Tonight turned out to be my lucky night!

    At Greenwood’s I found a copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking discounted 50%!  The front cover was slightly creased at the corner, but other than that it was completely intact.  This cookbook gets such favourable reviews that I had been contemplating picking it up for a few months now, but figured I really could not justify buying yet another cookbook.  However, at 50% off how could I refuse? I was so excited with my new discount purchase that I decided to make Sunday’s dinner from its pages.

    While flipping through the Beans and Dried Peas section and I came across an intriguing dish the likes of which I have never seen before.  Madhur coins it a Savory Chickpea Flour Quiche, but take a look at the recipe.

    Cook the chickpea flour with onions and seasonings, pour into pan, cool, cut and serve.  The instructions read like polenta, not so unfamiliar after all, so I figure this dish can be coined polenta with an eastern flair.

    It turned out fantastic.  EPC and both loved it.   I served it alongside Rasam, which Madhur describes as a tomato, tamarind and dal broth.  This sour spicy soup is one of my favourite South Indian dishes.  Although I really enjoyed the soup, I think that next time I make the Besan (and there will be a next time -it was delicious and not much work at all) I will serve a vegetable curry or two on the side instead.

    Besan

    2 1/2 cups of chickpea flour sifted
    3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
    1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground (I crushed mine with a mortar and pestle)
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    1/2 -1 teaspoon of cayenne
    1 medium onion, sliced in half and then into fine half rings
    5 tablespoons vegetable oil
    6 dried curry leaves

    2 teaspoons salt
    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
    1 hot chili, seeded and minced
    1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut

    • Put the sifted chickpea flour in bowl.  Slowly add 4 1/2 cups of water, breaking up the lumps as you go.  When all the water has been added, pour the batter through a fine mesh sieve to remove all the lumps.
    • Combine the garlic ginger, cumin, turmeric and cayenne in a small cup with 1/4 cup of water.  Set aside.
    • Heat the oil in a heavy 2 1/2 quart pot (I used an enameled Dutch oven) over medium heat.
    • Add the curry leaves and stir.  Then add the onions.
    • Cook the onions for 2-3 minutes, until softened, but not brown.
    • Add the spices in the cup with the water and stir-fry for 1 minute.
    • Add the chickpea flour mixture into the pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
    • Turn the heat to medium low and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pot.  This should take about 20 minutes
    • Add the salt and lemon juice and mix well.
    • Put the mixture into a 9 X 9 cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
    • Sprinkle the cilantro, chilies, and coconut and let cool.
    • Slice into 16 squares.

    Click to print

    Layered Vegetable and Polenta Casserole

    It took me a while to get into polenta.

    I love things with cornmeal, but seeing a log of polenta at the grocery store made it look very unappetizing.  Polenta was one cornmeal specialty that I needed to warm up to.

    This weekend, I decided to throw away my polenta reservations and concoct a Layered Vegetable Polenta Casserole in response to a suggestion at the bottom of a  basic polenta recipe in one of my cookbooks.  I was feeling pretty lazy, so instead of making my own polenta I  picked up a 1 pound log of polenta from the grocery store.  Not that polenta is difficult to make, but slicing the polenta into rounds for my casserole would be even easier!

    I decided to go with a tomato marinara type sauce and went with zucchini, eggplant and yellow pepper with a bit of feta cheese.  Eggplant really brings a nice texture to baked vegetable dishes, a contrast to the crunch of the pepper and zucchini.

    The feta cheese added a nice salty tang to the dish, but looked rather uninspiring.  The goat’s milk feta that I bought neither crumbled or melted well.  Next time, I will use a blend of Italian cheeses.

    Aside from that, it turned out wonderful and EPC even stated that he felt the polenta was the best part.  I would have to agree, I savoured each bite and went back for seconds.

    With my polenta apprehension a thing of the past, I think you will be seeing a lot more of it at Cookbook Cooks.

    Layered Vegetable and Polenta Casserole

    1 medium onion, diced
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    1 Japanese eggplant, chopped
    1 medium zucchini, chopped
    1 yellow pepper, chopped
    28 ounce can diced tomato
    3 tablespoons tomato paste
    1 teaspoon basil
    1/2 teaspoon oregano
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili peppers
    2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    1/2-3/4 pound of polenta (sold in 1 pound round)
    175 g of crumbled feta cheese, or a generous 1 cup of shredded cheese of your choice

    • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes.
    • Add garlic and continue to saute for 3 minutes, stirring often so the garlic does not stick.
    • Add zucchini, eggplant and pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
    • Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano and chilies.
    • Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    • Preheat the oven to 350°C
    • Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch rounds
    • Cover the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish with a thin layer of sauce (be careful  not to use more than 1/3). Top with a layer of polenta.  Top with half the remaining sauce and half the cheese.  Top with another layer of polenta, sauce and cheese.
    • Bake at 350°C for 20-25 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.

    Click to print