Monday, June 27, 2011

Vegan Polenta-Tomato-Spinach Towers

This summer, I have totally changed my view about veganism. It was originally my idea of a straightjacket. Now, I don't see it that way at all. Even if I don't adopt it on a permanent basis (that might be more extreme than I want to be right how), I think it might actually be my ticket to longevity (Dr. Katz agrees.).

Two events have effected my recent interest in a vegan diet. First, I plowed through Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, so I am highly uninclined to eat animal products. Secondly, I'm so proud of myself for lowering my bad cholesterol by 17 points in six months with some serious dietary changes that I've been reading up about the vegan diet for that reason as well--many experts believe that a vegan diet will cause your cholesterol numbers to take a drastic plunge.

The way I do things is that I take in a ton of information and then try to make it my own. In this domain, this means that I've been inventing vegan recipes. My first invention just passed a serious test by pleasing the picky palate of my French husband!

Give it a try, and let me know what you think. It would probably be best if you view it--as I do--as a starting point. For instance, I created it with fresh, organic spinach. Since some of the sauces were left over, I made it on the second day with organic broccoli raab from our CSA, Red Wagon Organic Farms-- it was a huge hit two days in a row! This is meant to be served as a main dish (it has ample protein and fiber), but if you modify it into a side dish, I'd love to see your comments on that. And an added bonus: you can put the polenta, marinated sun-dries (if you DIY), and light sauce together to day before. On the second day I made this (with leftovers on both), it probably took me 20 minutes or less from saucepan to table. With a kitchen kibbitzer, you could easily serve this to guests.

Serves 4

For the polenta:

2 c water

1 c cornmeal (polenta), uncooked

1 T olive oil

1 tsp minced garlic

1/4 t salt (sea salt would be nice)

few turns of black pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine water, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to boil over high heat. Whisk in cornmeal, stirring or whisking continually, reduce heat and simmer, stirring, for 8-10 minutes until mixture thickens but is still spreadable. Brush a 7-9” pan (or 9” pie pan) with oil and pour in mixture. Optional: Sprinkle with chopped tarragon, or oregano and) chill in ‘fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

For the marinated sun-dried tomatoes: (buy ‘em already marinated, or marinate (rehydrated, if nec) yourself:

1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes, julienned

1/8 c olive oil

1 tsp minced garlic

1/4 t Italian spices

Marinate the tomato pieces in the oil, garlic, and spices for 30-minutes or overnight.

For the spinach (or other greens that you like; chard should work, maybe borage? collard greens, mustard greens, kale?)


6 oz fresh baby spinach

in microwave for 3 minutes. Before serving, chop into smaller pieces with kitchen scissors.

Light sauce:

In blender or food processor:

1/3 pkg silken tofu

1 T sun-dried tomatoes

1/3 c Pasta Sauce of choice (I used Safeway Select Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce)

Blend until smooth.

Finishing the polenta:

Heat 1 T canola oil in medium saute pan on medium-high heat.

Remove polenta from refrigerator and cut into squares of about 3” square.

Fry squares in the pan until browned (about 5-8 minutes per side, maybe up to 10 mins).


Plating directions:

On each plate, place a square of polenta. Spoon about 1/8 of the chopped spinach (thin layer) on top of polenta. Add 4-8 pieces of the marinated tomato julienne slices. Spoon about 1/8 c of the light sauce on top of that. Drizzle the dark tomato sauce around the plate and criss-cross over the top of the polenta tower. Top with a sprig of oregano or whatever you have on hand. Cut up a few leaves of fresh basil and sprinkle over all.