Fiesta Siesta

Greetings, fellow humans. Today I am sharing a vegetarian dish that is an attempted copy of a mexican eggs benny that I had at The Nook in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which I definitely recommend should you find yourself in Manitoba.

I made only enough for one, because it is only dear Hector and I here and he does not care for Mexican cuisine all that much, so the following list of ingredients is for the solitary diner:

-half an avocado
-a biscuit-size slice of polenta
-chunky salsa (I like medium or spicy)
-one egg
-two tomato slices
-half a pepper
-lemon juice (I prefer fresh), approximately 1 tbsp
-small clove of garlic
-salt and pepper
-chili powder, optional
-field greens, optional

Avocado halfI began by mashing together in a small bowl the half avocado, lemon juice (a firm squeeze’s worth from half a fresh lemon), garlic and a sprinkle of chili powder for a makeshift guacamole. I shall call this version ‘lemomole’.
Lemomole It was so delicate and fresh tasting. It inspired me to revisit Pablo Neruda’s “A Lemon”, which is a favorite poem of my sister. Here is an excerpt:

We open
the halves
of a miracle,
and a clotting of acids
brims
into the starry
divisions:
creation’s
original juices,
irreducible, changeless,
alive:
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon,
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind,
the proportions, arcane and acerb.

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
altars,
aromatic facades.

A LemonAfter staring into the lemon half for who knows how long, I sliced the pepper lengthwise.
Cut peppers, tomatoThen I put a little oil into a skillet and set it on a medium heat. When it was hot, I added the polenta.
PolentaAfter about two minutes, I flipped the polenta and cracked the egg into the opposite side of the skillet.
Polenta and egg againThen I let them cook and sizzle. I feel like this is something you should just know how to do. Frying eggs and cornmash should be a no-brainer, which is how I felt when making this meal. Like a zombie. Inspired by poetry.

I added the peppers to the pan on a whim after flipping the egg. I wasn’t really sure where I was going with the peppers, to be honest, so I just threw a little salt and pepper on them and let them fry for a bit.
Fried everythingI then transferred the polenta onto a bed of field greens and stacked tomato, then egg, salsa, lemomole and a quarter of a tomato slice (why not?). I added the fried peppers to the side of the plate and presto magic, a meal.
Final, side viewFinal from aboveIt was okay. I think this would have been far tastier on a bed of lime and chili marinated roasted potatoes, onions and peppers. The salsa and lemomole truly made this dish. In fact, I might just have to praise the lemon and say that it alone brought life to this dish. It was both a party and a nap, because some bites were incredible and others were boring. Hence, this dinner was a fiesta siesta. What can I say, hasta los gatos quieren zapatos.
p.s. – I don’t know Spanish.
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Paramount Polenta

Hey there, pilgrims! Alas, the sacred vows I made have been broken. My evil twin reared her ugly head and pulled me down beyond the depths of procrastination into Goshdarn Plumb Lazyville. I had to hitchhike my way back, whilst balancing the chaos that is my life precariously upon my back. What’s that you whisper? “Excuses, excuses”? Fair enough. Behold, my life is made of coffee spoons and mason jars.       IMG_1059So. What is cooking in my kitchen? This week I experimented with polenta, which I have only tasted fried. I thought there must be something else. I thought I would try a roasted vegetable polenta lasagna. What is polenta? It is salty cornmeal in a tube. It can be sliced like tofu and has the consistency of cream of wheat. It is a great alternative base, especially for those who are gluten-free. Here are the ingredients I used:

1/2 an eggplant
1 red pepper
1/2 large white onion
8-10 asparagus spears
1 zucchini
1/2 tube of polenta
1/2 jar of marinara sauce
2-3 tbsp hazelnut oil (olive oil would also be fine)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
salt n’ pepper, to taste
3/4 cup grated cheese or daiya (I did a corner of daiya and the rest old white cheddar)

Hazelnut oil was a gift from a lovely house guest which will likely be featured in many recipes as experimentation, hence why it is in this recipe!

hazelnut oilPre-heat the oven to 425 F and dice and/or cube all the vegetables and sliced the polenta lengthwise. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the onions, garlic and spices until it is quite fragrant and the onions were becoming more translucent. I’m not actually sure how much oregano and basil I used because I did the ol’ pinch and sprinkle, but I was generous. Also, I think fresh basil would have been lovely. If you are using fresh, put it in after the vegetables.

Add the vegetables and cook for 6-8 minutes.

vegLooking so fresh and so clean! Now add some marinara, not the full 1/2 jar yet because you need to save some for later, probably 1/2 cup. Let simmer another 5 minutes or so.

veg in potTest some of that deliciousness with a clean fork. Add a little salt and/or pepper if you feel it needs it, or more sauce, or more basil, or whatever it seems to be lacking (unless it is just perfect). Remove from the burner and let it be.

Grab a 21×21 cm pan (or 9×9 inch pan) and put the remaining marinara in the bottom. Layer the polenta atop as you would lasagna noodles.

polenta polenta in saucePour the vegetable mixture over the polenta, sprinkle whatever cheese or daiya on top, cover in tin foil and pop in the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes to allow some of the moisture to bake off and to make the cheese crispy!

prebake

I was not patient enough to crisp the cheese, so this is the result of 35 minutes:finalI had dinner guests to help me test this puppy out, and they gave an overall rating of 4 stars. On the side, I included a tossed salad with enoki mushrooms which was really tasty. All the rumors about their buttery taste and soft texture are true! A really delicate mushroom, which I think would also be a good sprout replacement in wraps.

mushrooms

Also, for those who are poor or are curmudgeony about different ingredients, enoki mushrooms are usually between $1 or $2 and an entire tube of polenta is around $3 or $4, so although the ingredients are unique, they are not bank-breakers.

Go forth and be bold in your eating experiments! Healthy can be fun and adventurous, regardless of what all those fuddy-duddies say about eating like rabbits. Fruits and vegetables are infinitely more exciting than meat and potatoes.

Razz My Berries

Dear Favorite Person, a.k.a you,

Hello. I have missed you, truly. Unfortunately, I am not the She Chef you fell in love with, and have changed my kitchen several times. Meat is off the menu, so we’re going to get even crazier with experiments! The recipes will be mostly vegan, some vegetarian (when I’m feeling cheesy).

We Can Do It!

I feel pretty fearless in the kitchen, so regardless of if my meal is a fail or a win, you will get to experience the good and the bad with me. I vow, for delicious or unsavory, in calamity or fortune, for rotten or ripe, in rain or shine, I will share photos and provide weekly recipes starting in April, 2013.

Here is an example of the treats you can look forward to making! Mmm, marinated portabellas on a bed of pesto & artichoke tossed spinach rice linguine, with a side of boiled beets. What’s that brown spot, you ask? Well, I like BBQ sauce with my beets.

Curious? Enticed? Stay tuned…

Vegan's Delight