Polenta Slices with Spicy Tomatoes

Polenta 1

I love Italian food and I love the idea of polenta, but the texture is often too smooth for my taste, too much like a breakfast cereal. A different way to eat polenta is to cook it first, spread it on a baking sheet and then bake it. In this version I made a spicy and thick tomato sauce with red chile and garlic that goes on top of the polenta. It actually reminds a bit of pizza. You can add fresh basil or oregano if you like, and of course whatever kind of cheese you like.

Also, as I promised, I didn’t wear my mouthguard in the kitchen…, so I could taste the tomato sauce to make sure it wasn’t too sour. A bit of honey takes the edge of the acidity of the tomatoes and it’s all good.

Ingredients:
Serves 4 people
Total preparation time: 1 1/2 hours

For the polenta:

1 cup polenta
4 cups water
1 1⁄2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon organic butter or olive oil

Add the salt and the butter or the olive oil to the water and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling stir in the polenta. Boil at medium to high temperature for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Then turn to low/medium heat, cover the pot partly, stir occasionally to keep from burning and cook for about 30 minutes until the polenta has a smooth consistency.

While the polenta is cooking prepare the tomato sauce.

Also preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

You need for the chunky tomatoes:

6 roma tomatoes
1 red chile
2 teaspoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, squeezed
½ tablespoon of honey
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of black pepper

Wash the tomatoes, cut them in half and then chop in 1/2 inch size pieces.

Wash the red chile, half it and seed it. Then chop finely.

Heat a cast iron skillet or frying pan with the olive oil. Once hot, add the tomatoes, garlic ad chili. Sauté at medium/high temperature for about 20 minuets, until the water of the tomatoes has cooked off. It should be thick and chunky at this point, not a runny tomato sauce. Add the salt, pepper and honey.

When the polenta is done, lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Pour the polenta onto the baking sheet and spread evenly with a rubber spatula.

Divide the tomatoes into 8 or more portions on top of the polenta, according to how many slices you would like to have at the end.

Stick the baking sheet into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. You can add grated parmesan cheese, which is nice, but not necessary.

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Grilled Summer Zucchini Salad

zuccini processed2
Zucchini can appear to be a boring vegetable, but how untrue that is! It depends all on how it is being prepared. If just cut into chunks and left to its own devices to be steamed, yes, it is the dish that mostly does not get eaten… Soggy, tasteless and a bit bland it can be. But oh, give it the right attention, cut it the way it wants to be cut, forget the steaming for a moment, and the zucchini’s true magic reveals itself.

I made this zucchini salad just recently as a side dish together with a French potato salad and greens beans – and it was gone within seconds. No kidding! Even the children at the table who usually do not ask for zucchini wanted more. For this salad the zucchini is grilled, which is a refreshening variation and brings out its nutty flavor that mostly stays hidden.

There is just something about simplicity. It is not the amount of fancy ingredients that make good food. (And that doesn’t mean I do not sit transported to other worlds if I eat, for example, amazing green asparagus in almond wasabi crust – as I once did in a Japanese restaurant in New York. That was 8 years ago and I am still thinking of it….) But let’s be honest, most of us have ordinary lives, with children that want to be fed, (just not with vegetables…). We have busy lives and big hearts that long for nurturing, delicious food. Well, this is for you.

Ingredients:

For 4 people
Preparation time: 40 minutes

4 medium size zucchini
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 big clove of garlic, squeezed
1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Carefully slice each zucchini lengthwise in thin slices. A different way to cut it can make all the difference!

Turn the grill on.

Add the squeezed garlic, the salt and the pepper to the olive oil. Brush the zucchini slices with the olive oil. And then, put them on the grill! It will only take a few minutes for each side. Make sure to not burn them, as they grill quite fast.

Take the slices off the grill, arrange on a platter and sprinkle with lemon juice. Sprinkle some more salt and pepper on it over the platter. Serve warm.

First Taste

What a magnificent moment, the first time of tasting different foods. Most of us probably don’t remember as it happened at such an early age. What an important time in our lives as small children when we get to know food, optimally in an environment that supports healthy meals, maybe preparing them with family and eating together. In giving space to children for experimenting and trying out new flavors and dishes, we can support them in finding a healthy relationship with food. The daughter of a friend of mine is two right now and her great passion is butter – without the bread. Wonderful to see her tasting it! With gentle guidance from the adult  and with lots of space a child will find their way around food. And that impacts not only our relationship with food, but with everything in life.

While I was thinking about that for myself I mostly remembered foods from my childhood that I did not like at all. On the top of the list vegetable soup, cooked carrots and mashed potatoes, which had me sit at our kitchen table for hours after everyone else had left. There was a strawberry yoghurt waiting for me for when I would have eaten the soup. I have always been strong willed and so I would sit at that table for very long times…. I still don’t like mashed potatoes or cooked carrots, but I do love all kinds of food – and how much less colorful, rich and breathtakingly delicious the world would be without it!

I like this video because it captures the very moment of “The First Taste.”

Spring Tango Feast with Roasted Fennel, Kalamata Olives and Cherry Tomatoes

Spring is here and it needs to be celebrated! The following is a recipe that originally a friend of mine from Germany came up with and that I have made many times. It is in my cookbook Dharma Feast Cookbook – Recipes for a Fresh Start. Oven roasted fennel with kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes, thyme and lots of garlic. Make sure you invite some of your good friends for this…

olives processed current

And before you start cooking, put on the right music… Here is one of my favorite tango songs while you are cooking. It is a vals, which is one of three forms of tango. It is impossible for me to stay in a bad mood when I hear this song.

And here is the recipe:

Serves 3
Prep time 40 minutes

5 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 heaping teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 pounds fennel (core, stalks, and leaves discarded), cut into 8 wedge pieces
1 pound cherry tomatoes 20 pitted kalamata olives

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix olive oil, garlic, sea salt, and thyme. Put the fennel, tomatoes, and the olives on a baking sheet. Pour the olive oil mixture over the vegetables. Bake for 20–25 minutes. The fennel should be soft and the tops should be a little bit browned.

Serve it with arugula salad, fresh bread and butter. Enjoy the spring tango feast!

Spinach Salad with Orange Zest Dressing and Toasted Almonds

Fresh, juicy, different, and most importantly: simple!

Here it goes. (For 2 people)

Ingredients:
2 big handfuls of fresh spinach leaves (already washed)
2 tablespoons of almond slices

For the Dressing:
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of safflower oil
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 garlic glove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons of honey
1 tablespoon of apple-juice

Zest the orange.

Orange Zest

Then dry-roast the almond slices in a pan over medium to high heat. Stir the almonds so they don’t burn.

Roasted almonds

For the dressing, add the zest to the lemon juice. Squeeze the garlic through a garlic press and add to the lemon juice with the salt, pepper, honey. Slowly stir in the safflower and olive oil until it emulsifies. Stir in the apple-juice at the end.

Pour the dressing over the spinach, toss and sprinkle with the toasted almonds.
I recently served this salad with Tai vegetables in coconut milk and Basmati Rice.

Spinach Salad

Why I love Salads

I wrote the vegetarian cookbook Dharma Feast Cookbook – Recipes For a Fresh Start. The funny thing is that not until recently have I actually started following a pretty clean diet myself. I am German after all and so I naturally love every kind of dough product, breads and pastries in all forms and shapes, as well as dairy in and out and meat…

By “clean” I mean eating no or little white flour, sugar, dairy products, or caffeine. The body needs energy for transformation. I can tell how much more heavy I feel after eating a hamburger or eating a wheat tortilla with cheese. Then the energy I need for transformation is being used for digestion.

Since I started boxing I feel naturally drawn to light and healthy food. And I enjoy specially coming up with new and interesting ways to make salads. Not just the plain old green salad with cucumbers and carrots. So you will read new recipes here as I like to invent new dishes all the time. And I will also post recipes from Dharma Feast Cookbook.