Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Polenta Rancheros

Summer is officially here and we've been quite lucky in southern Indiana. The summer solstice was followed by several warm days - comfortably warm, not too hot, not too humid - and cool evenings. We've been so comfortable. This is in stark contrast to last summer, which started with high temperatures in April and continued without abating until September. We don't have air conditioning so an extremely hot day definitely impacts our lives. And a string of extremely hot days? I don't think Garry and I were speaking by this time last summer! (It wasn't Garry's fault). Thankfully, our relationship survived last summer's heat intact (thank you, Garry) and this summer we are truly appreciating how easy and comfortable the weather has been. Can you tell that I'm enjoying it? I really am.

Despite the moderate temperatures, we still find lighter dinners preferable as the temperatures indoors are typically warmer than outdoors.  We've been sticking with salad, fresh fruits and vegetables for the most part, but it's also nice to have cooked meals, though we prefer to stick to the range-top and avoid the oven as much as possible. We recently tried a new recipe I've wanted to test for a while, a vegan take on Huevos Rancheros. This classic Mexican dish traditionally consists of fried eggs served on corn tortillas with a tomato-chili sauce and is usually accompanied with refried beans and avocado.   This updated version replaces the tortilla and egg with polenta topped with beans.  It was delicious, super easy and quick ... very little time cooking over a hot stove!

This recipe came from the famous vegan author, Post Punk Kitchen's Isa Chandra Moskowitz (who else?) maybe most notably known for her cookbooks Vegan with a Vengenence and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, the latter co-authored with Stacy Hope Romero.

Polenta Rancheros
from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch

For the Rancheros sauce and beans:
2 teaspoons cumin seed
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons oil
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
2 Serrano peppers, seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 fifteen-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teasppon salt
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup or agave nectar
2 fifteen-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed

For the soft polenta:
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta cornmeal
2 tablespoons olive oil

Optional items for garnish:
Chopped green onions
Cashew Sour Cream
Cherry tomatoes

Preheat a large, heavy -bottomed pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Dry toast the seeds in the pan for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until they're fragrant and a few shades darker (just be careful not to burn them). Raise the heat to medium high, add the oil, and sauté the onion, peppers, and garlic for about 10 minutes, until onion is browned. Add the tomato sauce, salt, and syrup and cook for about 5 minutes.
Transfer the onion mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If using a blender, intermittently lift the lid to let steam escape so that it doesn't build up and explode.  
Return the sauce to the pan and add the beans. Cook over medium heat until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes.

In a saucepan, bring the broth and salt to a boil. Add the polenta in a slow, steady stream, whisking as you pour it. Add the olive oil and lower the heat to simmer. Let cook for 12 minutes, stirring often. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

I like to use wide, shallow bowls for this dish, but any bowl should be just fine.  Ladle some beans into the bowl and top with a big spoonful of polenta. Dot with the sour cream by drizzling drops slowly from a tablespoon, and top with a dollop of guacamole. Finish it off with chopped green onions and a cherry tomato. VoilĂ !
We topped ours with guacamole, red onion, and tomatoes.  Delicious!

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