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.

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.

Turkish Salad with Dates and Goat Cheese

turkish 3

One of my favorite cookbooks these days is the book “Plenty”by Yotam Ottolenghi. It has incredible, creative and unusual vegetarian recipes with a middle Eastern touch. I tried most of them and every single one has worked and tasted great. In general, the recipes are not hard, but a bit time consuming, because he is working with lots of different spices and fresh herbs, which often takes more time to prepare. This is a book that will definitely spice up your day and with every recipe you want to try the next one!

I made this Turkish Salad the other day and it was delicious. It is a wonderful combination of flavors. Highly recommended.

The recipe calls for Turkish sheep’s cheese, but since it is a bit hard to find here :), I just substituted it through soft goat cheese, which worked just fine.

For 4 people:

1 1/2 tablespoons of whole almonds (skin on)
6 large Medjool dates
2 1/2 cups of arugula
4 to 5 oz of soft goat cheese
a few leaves of dill
3/4 cup of mixed purple ands green basil leaves and red chard leaves
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper

Dry roast the almonds at medium heat in a skillet until they are brown.

Halve the dates lengthwise and remove and discard the pit. Cut each in half into four to six long slices.

Spread the arugula over the bottom of each serving dish. On top, build up dates, cheese, dill, basil and red chard, making sure you can clearly see all four elements.

Mix together well the olive oil, pomegranate molasses and some salt and pepper, and drizzle over the salad. Roughly chop up the almonds and sprinkle on top and serve.

turskish salad 2

turkish salad 1

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!

Asian Stuffed Mushrooms

mushrooms processed

Last week I made the food for an hors d’oeuvres dinner party. I had set an Asian theme for the evening and so I made these vegetarian stuffed mushrooms that have a bit of an Asian twist – mango, cilantro, green chilies… Simple and easily done and quite delicious.

Prep time including baking time is about 45 minutes.

This is what you need for 4 people:

12 mushrooms
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of minced red onions
3 gloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
1/2 green chile, halved, seeded and minced
4 tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped mango
1/2 teaspoon of soy-sauce
1 tablespoon of almond butter
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/8 of a teaspoon of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Rub the mushrooms off with a paper-towel and carefully take them stems out. Brush a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Brush each mushroom with olive oil and place on the baking sheet. Chop the stems finely. Saute the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium to high heat until translucent. Add the garlic and chili and saute for 2 minutes. Add the mushroom stems and keep sautéing until the juices got released. Add the soy-sauce, the cilantro and the mango and sauté for another 2 minutes. Finally add the almond butter, the salt and pepper.

Fill each mushroom with the mushroom-spice sauté.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rice Cereal with Coconut-milk and Cardamom

Rice Cereal

This is a wonderful way to use up cooked rice, (any kind of rice), that is still in your refrigerator. It also makes for a great breakfast alternative instead of regular oatmeal. It is filling and warming and has a nice texture. I came up with this the other day and really liked it, and I am usually not a breakfast cereal lover.

Ingredients: (For 3-4 people)

4 cups of cooked brown rice
1/2 can of coconut milk
1 1/2 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1 tablespoon of butter

Add the rice, the coconut milk and 1 cup of the water in the blender and blend everything. Add the ground cardamom.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the coconut cereal from the blender. Stirr often and add the rest of the water as necessary to keep it from burning. Cover with lid for 5 minutes to heat it up completely and stir several times. Add as much water as you like for desired consistency.

Serve hot in a bowl, with butter and honey.