Baked Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce

27 12 2011

As I’m writing this, my boyfriend is stuffing a shirt into a burning fireplace. We are staying at my bosses house all week, looking after his incredibly needy/flaky dog and a mysteriously absent cat. We decided to light a fire, only to discover that the fireplace is stuffed with household trash; the burnable, the probably-non-burnable. All I know is that my boss gave the OK on lighting fires, so I’m blindly praying that none of this stuff is too toxic. This is either very ghetto and incredibly hazardous or totally sustainable. Leaning towards the former…

Speaking of fires, I was very much on the verge of burning this cookbook. I’ve made a few recipes from it and frankly, they have all been flavorless and weak. Cursing these butter-substituting, fat-free nazis, I reluctantly gave the book one last try after Ryan dug it up one day.

And lo and behold, cookbook gets to live another day because of Cheesy Polenta. I haven’t cooked with polenta that much, but when I have, the results have not been too exciting. But this casserole dish fits the texture and taste of polenta perfectly. It soaks up all of the flavorful sauce and matches very well with the mellow Gruyère. Serve with a salad, a side veggie and a good chunk of bread .

New beer reviews are also up! Check out Smuttynose Winter Ale and Ayinger’s Celebrator.

Baked Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Fat-Free Vegetarian

1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups quick-cooking polenta OR one of those round mold packages of pre-cooked polenta that Trader Joes sells
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsps. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 14-oz cans chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tb. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup Gruyère cheese,

If using quick-cooking polenta: Lightly grease an ovenproof dish and set aside. Line an 11 x 7 in. baking pan with plastic wrap. In a pan, bring 4 cups water to boil with the salt. Pour in the polenta and cook, stirring continuously for 5 minutes. Beat in the paprika and nutmeg, then pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Leave to cool.

If using pre-cooked polenta: cut into 2 inch squares and sprinkle both sides with paprika and nutmeg.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and cook the onion and garlic until softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and other spices. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place half the polenta squares in the prepared baking dish. Spoon over half the tomato sauce then sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat the layers. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot.

Sloppy Joes

14 12 2011

I’m always searching for the best vegetarian takes on comfort food. Veggie pot pies, mac n’ cheese, burgers. That is my ZONE. Yeah!

I’ve tried out a couple of sloppy joe recipes and none of them seem to really do the trick. This one though, after some slight adjustments from the original recipe, is getting pretty darn close; deep, rich flavors from the addition of brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce, mixed with a hot pop from mustard and hot sauce.

The only thing I haven’t completely perfected yet is the texture. I’ve used tempeh in the past, but that ends up being too clumpy. The TVP is a lot better, but I think I’m looking for something a bit softer and creamier. Perhaps lentils, or some sort of bean. Anyone have a suggestion?

While I search for the perfect vegan sloppy joe, this recipe works just perfectly.

Sloppy Joes
Adapted from Hot Damn and Hell Yeah: Recipes for Hungry Banditos

1 cup TVP granules
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1 tb. garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tb. yellow mustard
2 tbs. worcestershire sauce
1 tb. tomato paste
3 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Few splashes of hot sauce (optional)
Hamburger buns, toasted

Combine the TVP granules with 1 cup hot water in a bowl and set aside to soak.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onion, bell peppers and garlic for about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms and cook for another few minutes before adding all of the remaining ingredients, including the TVP. Stir well and reduce heat, simmering for 10-20 minutes until it reduces and thickens a bit. Serve hot on toasted buns.

Seitan Goulash

5 11 2011

If I had my own restaurant; my own vegetarian comfort-food diner/café/show space/brewpub/rocket-ship, this seitan goulash would be on the menu. Then come Halloween time, I would re-name it to Seitan GHOULash. It would be amazing. Hell, I would sling this out of a dinky food-cart in the dead of winter. Whole cities shoveling steaming spoonfuls of goulash into their mouths; loving every second of it.

Sadly, The Chicago Diner already beat me to it. But do they add sauerkraut?? Nien! The recipe is mine.

Juicy chunks of seitan, tender potatoes, along with the creamy tartness of sauerkraut and sour cream, make this a total go-to cold weather comfort food. Use Hungarian sweet paprika if you have it on hand, otherwise, regular paprika is fine.


Seitan Goulash
Adapted from The Chicago Diner Cookbook

2 tbs. vegetable oil
2 tsps. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsps. paprika
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup tamari/soy sauce
3 cups water

1/2 lb. seitan, cut into chunks
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
Vegetable oil for frying

2 tbs. vegetable oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 cup carrots, sliced
2-3 large potatoes, diced
2 bay leaves
1 cup celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped

1 can sauerkraut, drained
Vegan sour cream
Noodles/pasta of choice

To make the marinade, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Add the remaining marinade ingredients and simmer 5-10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Pour marinade over the seitan and let sit for about 20 minutes; drain, reserving the marinade.

Mix the flour, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika in a bowl. Heat about 1/4 cup oil in a medium skillet until hot. Dredge the seitan in the flour mixture and sauté until brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil for the vegetables in a large pot. Add the onions and carrots and cook 8-10 minutes. Add the potatoes and bay leaves and cook 10-15 minutes more, or until the potatoes start to get tender. Add the celery and bell pepper, cover with the reserved marinade and simmer 5 minutes. Add the seitan, stir and cover. Remove from heat and stir in the sauerkraut and vegan sour cream to taste. Serve on hot noodles/pasta and topped with more vegan sour cream.

Pizza Bombay

16 01 2011

This is less a pizza, but more an Indian flatbread. In place of raita, we smothered it in yogurt. Delicious. In place of wine, for the romantic dinner Ryan and I made, we stole a bottle of Sweet Rose Korbel from our landlords. Nothing like a pink champagne to accentuate some curry on the palate.

But really, this “pizza” is great. I’m addicted to nan anytime I’m out at an Indian restaurant, so to add some lentils and spinach to it and make nan the whole meal, top notch! Here we are chowing down on romantic curry night.

Pizza Bombay
Adapted from Vegan Planet

1 tb. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tb. curry powder
1 10 oz. bag of spinach, chopped
1 cup cooked brown lentils, drained
1/4 cup caramelized onions (optional)
Pizza Dough
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, stirring to coat the onion. Add the spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2-4 minutes. Stir in the lentils, adjust the seasonings and set aside.

Punch the dough down. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out into the size of your baking pan and about 1/4-inch thick. (I used a half-sheet baking pan.) Transfer to the lightly oiled pan and bake on the bottom oven rack for 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and top with the spinach-lentil mixture. Brush the edges of the crust with olive oil and bake until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Serve hot and with plain yogurt.

French Miso Onion Soup

29 12 2010

Its been pretty icky out. Though the sun was shining today, the wind was whipping and everything is coated in scary scary ice. So I stayed in and made soup. A really cool Japanese/French fusion soup. No butter, no chicken stock, add some miso; this soup is like a warming winter detox. I need to incorporate more miso into my life. It’s so good for you. Too good for you.

Here’s a pig I got for Christmas. He eats coins.

French Miso Onion Soup
Adapted from Tofu & Soyfoods Cookery

2 tbs. sesame oil
8 onions, thinly sliced
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbs. red miso (or any sort of dark miso)
2 tbs. light/white miso
1/2 cup warm water or veggie stock

Heat the sesame oil in a large stockpot. Add the onions and cook slowly for 1 hour, stirring often.

Add the 4 cups vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Dissolve the miso in the 1/2 cup warm water/stock. Bring the heat down on the soup. Stir the miso into the soup and cook for 5 more minutes. Don’t let it boil! The micro-organisms in miso are killed from over-cooking. Serve with croutons and (soy) Parmesan cheese melted on top.