About a week ago, I found myself in Seattle at a friend’s apartment in Ballard. Sadly the air travel had not helped my cold, so early on Sunday morning when I could have been sleeping, I was perched on a stool in the corner of the kitchen waiting for hot water to boil.
My friend Jill’s roommate is not only vegetarian but vegan, full time. It was nice to be in a region that didn’t look at me as if I had sprouted another head when I explained, that “no, at the moment I don’t eat meat or dairy or eggs…” Their kitchen had the various accessories of the stereotypical “vegan” — lots of soy, plenty of alt-cookbooks, and even a little worm composting bin (I’m not saying only vegans keep worms as pets, but it is along the lines of the earth-friendly set). Needless to say, I was a bit confused at first where to put my recycling, my non-recylcing, food scraps, and even the stapled tag from my tea bag. Recycle?
I grabbed a cookbook “How it all vegan” to read while waiting to make my bizarre, homepathic cold remedy. I was already on my 3 bag of cough drops, and poor Lis, Maren, and Jill had listened to me virtually hack up a lung all night. Anyway, in the cookbook was a recipe for some kind of polenta dish. Being less than well, I forgot to make note of many of the instructions or the ingredients, but intrigued I decided yesterday, a week later, that I was going to try it.
1 cup of corn meal
4 cups of water
2 teaspoons of salt
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced
2 handfuls of baby spinach, chopped
3/4 cup of sundried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water, chopped
2 precooked beets, chopped
1 handful of walnuts
Splash of balsamic vinegar
First, I combined 3/4 c. of water with 1 cup of cornmeal. Once that was stirred and thoroughly combined, I added the remaining 3 1/4 cup of water and salt and brought this mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. It began to boil, and I reduced the heat to a slow simmer, letting it do its business for about 10 minutes.
Second, I sprayed a large tart pan (a cast-off from my friend Molly when she left Portland and couldn’t rationalize packing it in her Forester — The NW and I miss her!) and spread the polenta in it. It looked pretty.
I have yet to use the tart pan for an actual, traditional, full-on butter tart. The amount of butter horrifies me, and I feel a little too guilty. Yes, I’m sure I consume similar amounts of the golden stuff when I “sample” the batter as I make cookies, but whatever. Ina Garten and Paula Dean would be very disappointed, I am sure.
Third, it was time to prepare the vegetables. I had no true reason for the combination that I chose — I thought of adding lots of colors and using what was left in my refrigerator. Also, I know that beets are very good for you, but I haven’t acquired a taste for them yet. They just taste a little to “earthy” for me — like the dirt is a part of the beet. I sauted the onions until translucent (5 minutes or so) and then added the red pepper and garlic for another 5 minutes. Next came the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. At this point, I covered it, to let it steam just a little. I watched to make sure the bright green didn’t immediately turn to the over-cooked brown. Last came the chopped beats and walnuts, with a dash of balsamic vinegar (hey, why not?).
I topped the polenta with these vegetables and sprinkled on the fresh basil, admiring my handiwork.
I baked at 350 for about 10-15 minutes. I’m not sure this was entirely necessary, but it seemed like the thing to do. In my non-vegan period, I’d likely add a little mozzerella or feta. Wow. I miss dairy.
Yes, it was yummy. But, I love polenta anyway.