Saturday, September 19, 2009

"so many times, it happens too fast"

Last night's dinner...Polenta enchiladas, Caesar Salad
Last night's song..."Eye of the Tiger" Survivor

I really love polenta. My devotion began several Christmases ago when I received a copy of Debrorah
Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and read her beautiful description of preparing polenta:

"Averse as we are to giving time to simple tasks, it's the time spent cooking that brings the full corn flavor...I don't mind the [30 minutes of] stirring if I'm not rushed. I find it provides a quiet time to catch up on some reading--I just put my book near the stove and read while I stir."

When I read this for the first time, I was just beginning to really utilize the kitchen room of my home, and these few lines helped me figure out what it's all about. "Giving time to simple tasks"-- what a lovely sentiment. Cooking isn't always about the 30 minute meal. Like polenta, sometimes even the most simple things are made that much better with a little time and effort. This week, recipes for polenta based meals popped up on both the Kitchn and the October issue of Vegetarian Times. My favorite meal was calling my name.

This meal took me about an hour and a half from first chop to first bite. The time was wonderfully leisurely, though... in the kitchen with my husband, sipping our first Dogfish Punkin Ale of the season, talking about the work week, and cooking a beautiful meal. I felt like a champ.

Polenta Enchiladas
For polenta:
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 cups polenta (stone ground corn meal)
2 tablespoons butter
handful of fresh chopped cilantro

For filling:
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/2 large zucchini, chopped
1/2 large crookneck squash, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
1 mild chili pepper, chopped (I used Hatch, could also use poblano or red bell pepper)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
handful of fresh chopped cilantro
1 1/4 cups verde salsa (I used Central Market Hatch Chili salsa)
1 cup grated cheddar or monterey jack cheese

To make the polenta: Bring vegetable broth and two cups water to a boil in a large heavy saucepan. Reduce heat to simmer and begin to add the polenta in a fine rain. Whisk constantly until the polenta is free of big chunks. With a long handle spoon, continue to stir polenta over low heat until it is very thick and begins to pull away from the side of the pan. This usually takes about 20 minutes, but may take longer. While polenta is still hot, stir in 2 tablespoons butter and cilantro. Thinly and evenly spread about half of the warm polenta into baking dish to create a bottom for the enchiladas.
To assemble enchiladas: Lightly heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and saute until onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, yellow squash, chili, garlic, mushrooms, and corn. Stir well until all vegetables begin to soften and release juices. Stir in beans and spices and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Once everything is combined and squash is cooked but still firm, remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
Layer vegetables on polenta. Top with 1/2 cup cheese and 1/2 cup salsa. Gently spread the remaining polenta over the top. Top with remaining salsa and cheese and bake a 375 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 or 10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream, if you like.

This morning, I used leftovers of this wonderfully versatile food to make brunch: farm fresh scrambled eggs (thanks to our city dwelling, chicken owning friends!) over polenta, topped with hot sauce and blue corn chips. Satisfying and delicious.
Polenta, you had me at hello.


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