Monday, August 31, 2009

Vegan Polenta and Green Tomato Salsa

polenta, salsa, white bean puree

This weekend I decided to finally tackle the growing tomato insanity out in my garden. See, I'm new at this gardening thing and I was kind of overwhelmed when my tomato plants grew so tall they started to fall over into each other, creating an impenetrable mess. There was nothing I could do but start tentatively started cutting off some leaves and branches.

When I wrote my first novel, I had to cut eight characters out of the first draft. Eight characters! Deleted, like they'd never existed. It felt almost as bad to cut back those tomato plants. I worked so hard to get them to grow and now I had to hack them right back. The Man of Science was watching me over the fence.

"It gets easier," he said.

He was right, it got easier as I went along. But I got bummed out when I realized that a bunch of green tomatoes would have to be sacrificed in the name of cleaning up the plants. I know I could have fried them up, Fannie Flagg style, but I felt like doing something different. Something salsa related.

The salsa didn't look like much when I initially put it together, but after an hour in the fridge it was bright and flavourful. The green tomatoes are firm enough to keep the whole thing from getting soggy. This was the best salsa I'd ever made. It cried out for some polenta.

I made the polenta using a modified version of this recipe. I used veggie stock instead of chicken stock, left out the cheese, and subbed in Earth Balance margarine for the butter. Oh, and I threw in some chopped up red and green hot peppers too. Delicious. Especially after it was refrigerated, cut into triangles, and pan fried. I served it with the salsa and a side of white bean and black olive dip for protein. The elements of the meal took a while to prepare and led to two minor injuries (a microplaned finger and a burnt hand) but it was worth it. One of my favourite dinners in a long time.

green tomato salsa

Green Tomato Salsa

3 cups green tomatoes, chopped
1 cup red tomatoes, chopped
1/2 a medium red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
1 jalapeno, chopped
juice of one lime
2 tsp kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Makes a whole lot of salsa, five cups or so.

vegan polenta

Vegan Polenta

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
4 cups veggie stock
1 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons vegan margarine
1 teaspoon salt
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a cast iron pan or regular saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, saute until onion is translucent.

Add veggie stock and raise the heat to high.

When the mixture begins to bubble, start adding the cornmeal a little at a time. Stir the mixture with a whisk while you do this.

When all the cornmeal is added, cover the pot and put the whole thing in the oven. Stir it every ten minutes. Make sure you don't pick up the lid by its scalding hot handle if you are not wearing an oven mitt. I'm just sayin'.

After 30 minutes in the oven, take the polenta out and add margarine and salt and pepper. I also added two chopped up hot peppers to mine for colour and a bit of heat.

You can eat it all soupy like that, or you can put it in a cake pan lined with foil and stick that in the fridge for half an hour or so. Once the polenta is set, you can cut it into triangles and pan fry it in a few tablespoons or olive oil over medium heat.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Some Notes:

-The white bean dip was just a cup and half of white beans and 1/4 cup of parsley blended with the juice of half a lemon and then mixed with a few tablespoons of chopped black olives. Easy and tasty

-Top Chef Vegan Watch: One of the chefs made an incredibly complicated vegan tofu dish for the main challenge this week. Perhaps some day when I am feeling wildly ambitious I will try to cook it myself. After all the complaining I've done about Top Chef never tossing a bone (heh) to us vegetarians, it seems only decent to give the recipe a go.

-And now, please admire my ill-advised hairstyle in this clip of my latest cooking demo for Roger's Daytime, in which I try to make like tofu ain't no thing and am met with skepticism.



Lisa said...

Ooooh, that Polenta looks great! Mine is sometimes dry, but that looks like it would be perfect. Must be the veggie stock.

Anonymous said...

That's a really beautiful picture! And very inventive about the green tomatoes.

sweetkaroline said...

thanks for this post!

it's a perfect fall meal!

kate said...

Oooh.. polenta is the best! I made some tonight tonight as a component of a meal. When I returned to the kitchen to put away leftovers I had to hover over the polenta for a bit and enjoy a few more bites. Mmm...

Anonymous said...

Great TV spot! You have a knack for it.