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

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!

Red Chile Sauce

Red Chili Sauce2

This is the healthier version of the sweet, red chile sauce that you can buy bottled. This one has honey instead of sugar – and it is homemade! It is great as a dipping sauce. You can also marinate tofu in it and bake it.

Makes 1 cup
Preparation time: 20 minutes

3 large cloves of garlic
2 red chiles
1/4 cup of rice vinegar
1/2 cup of honey
3/4 cup water
1/2 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of cornstarch

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend. Heat in a small sauce pan over medium to high heat for about 3-5 minutes. Add the cornstarch, stir, and keep it on medium heat for about 3 minutes until it begins to thicken.

Red Chili Sauce

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.

Spinach Salad with Orange Zest Dressing and Toasted Almonds

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

Here it goes. (For 2 people)

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