I have been a reader of Vegetarian Times since before I went full-on vegetarian. No joke. And after I took the step toward eating a plant-based diet, I became a subscriber. It’s one of the magazines I just can’t live without each month. Well, back in the April/May 2015 issue, they had an amazing recipe that involved polenta and corn, and black beans, and some other easy to find, or already have on-hand, items. And I had it in my head to make it.
This happens every month when I get my magazine subscriptions. But this time, it was different. Instead of just saying I would one day make that recipe. This time I did.
The recipe is for Double Corn Cakes with Black Beans…and the flavors, textures and just presentation are all fabulous. It’s a healthy and plenty filling meal. Having a hard time with your protein? Make this and you’ll be getting 19 grams in one serving. YES!
2 (15-oz) cans no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes
1-½ cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels, divided
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 (18-oz) tube pre-cooked polenta
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onion, garlic, jalapeño, and cumin, and sauté 5 minutes.
Stir in beans, tomatoes, 1 cup corn, and lime juice; season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Cook 5 minutes, or until heated through. Transfer mixture to covered container, and keep warm.
Wipe out skillet.
Meanwhile, crumble polenta into microwave-safe bowl, and mash with fork until nearly smooth. Add remaining 1/2 cup corn kernels. Microwave 1 minute to soften polenta. Stir, then add beaten egg, and fold into polenta mixture until smooth.
Coat skillet with cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat. Shape polenta into 8 1/3-cup cakes, gently flattening with palm. Cook corn cakes in two batches in skillet 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
Serve corn cakes over black bean mixture.
There is something amazing about transforming corn kernels and polenta into savory fritters. I served mine with a side of sliced avocado, but salsa would be a great touch as well. These fritters have this nice crispy outside and soft inside. Fantastic flavor. Healthy. Delicious!! I need to really make more recipes from my magazine subscriptions in the future!
Product: Trader Joe’s Polenta Provencale with Spinach & Peas in a Spicy Cream Sauce – $3.49+
It’s Friday, and despite getting paid today, I have no money. Which totally thwarted my plan to have gluten-free pizza away from home today. Seriously. The last thing I wanted to do after the day I had today was cook. I was having those, “I don’t want to be in that damn tiny kitchen any longer than I have to!” But, that’s not happening today. That’s not happening for a long time at this point.
But I burden you with things that have nothing to do with this blog or product. Sorry. Just a little anecdote to explain why I ended up with my head and arms in the freezer, trying to find something that was not labor intensive or requiring much else in the means of cooking. I had a few options…though not too many…but decided that since it had been in the freezer the longest, the Polenta Provencale I picked up at Trader Joe’s a long while back was going to have its moment to shine.
This is generally used as a side dish…but it was going to be a meal for my roomie and I. So, I cooked up the entire package instead of just two portions of it. Those would have been really small portions…but for a side, I suppose that’s what you need. HA!
Anyway…I put my pan on the stove and turned on the burner to a medium-high heat, as instructed on the bag of frozen product suggested. I cut open the packaging and peeked inside to see little orange balls of corn goodness with some greens. All clotted together by ice. Beautiful. I sighed…and poured it into the awaiting hot pan.
It took about a minute or so for the ice to melt in order for me to break up the clumps of polenta and vegetables, but once that happened…so did the magic of this dish. I went to get cups down for a drink to have with dinner…and when I came back to stir, while the polenta was still frozen, the spinach and the peas were now turning a gorgeous green and a sauce was beginning to show up in the pan. This gorgeous…orange sauce. It also was starting to smell really, really good. Okay…maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. I left it to cook some more and poured drinks, walking them out to the living room and setting them on the table. I returned and gave the dish another stir. The polenta was starting to soften, meaning it wasn’t all the way frozen now. Thank goodness. I could see tomato now in the sauce. And the sauce was getting thicker. It all finished up just as the roommate emerged from her bathroom from her shower. Perfect timing. I got down two bowls and split the contents of the pan evenly.
I delivered the dishes to the table and settled in to enjoy my little bowl of Trader Joe’s straight-from-the-freezer-to-your-stove meal…and hoped it was good. I had no Plan B today. But…I’d think of something if I had to. I’m good at that in a pinch…especially when I’m hungry and food is involved.
So…it wasn’t the pizza I was craving.
However…it was good. I think it’s a bit misleading to call the sauce “spicy.” Personally, if I wasn’t so comfortable in my seat, I would have added a touch of hot sauce or some red pepper flakes to kick up the heat a little. My roomie, who is a spice wimp…well…she didn’t say one word about any heat or spice…nor did she suck down most of her drink upon the first few bites. This, my dear foodies, means…it’s not spicy. The polenta gets soft, without getting mushy. And the vegetables are the perfect accompaniment to the dish. The spinach absorbs that sauce and the peas add to the texture. But it’s that sauce that ties everything together. That sauce…although not spicy…was fantastic. I devoured this…chewing and swallowing of course…but devoured. I savored it as long as I could, but it was, for a meal from a freezer, really good!
I want to try to make it on my own…like…from fresh ingredients. Not frozen. Hmmm…
Speaking of ingredients…this package of Trader Joe’s Polenta Provencale with Spinach & Peas in a Spicy Cream Sauce contains relatively few ingredients in the grand scheme of things. The ingredients in this dish include polenta (made from water, corn flour, salt, and dried skim milk), crushed peeled tomatoes, creme fraiche, spinach, peas, tomato, cow’s milk cheese, olive oil, salt, garlic, strong chili pepper, basil, modified rice starch, parsley, thyme, and modified corn starch. I, however, am not a fan of the two modified starch ingredients. GAH! That’s a bummer. This product is gluten-free and vegetarian, however.
As for nutrition, however, this isn’t so bad. A serving of the Trader Joe’s P0lenta Provencale with Spinach & Peas in a Spicy Cream Sauce is 1/3 cup, cooked. There are about 4 servings per package. But, since this was dinner, this became 2 servings…so these stats just double. If you eat a regular serving (1/4 of the package), you will be consuming 130 calories and 7 grams of fat. In addition, you will be taking in 20 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, and 2 grams of sugar. In the grand scheme of things, for a frozen, packaged product…that is awesome. You will also be taking in 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. Not lying…this dish is filling!
If you really like things spicy, I recommend adding a bit of kick to the Trader Joe’s Polenta Provencale with Spinach & Peas in a Spicy Cream Sauce. But…it’s not bad the way it is. I loved the rich, creaminess of each bite…from the sauce to the polenta to the vegetables…it was a trio of deliciousness. One that I will definitely consider trying again when I need to have one of those “prepare it quickly” meals.
Nicely done, Trader Joe’s. If anything…try to get those modified starches out of your product. Then…this will get my full approval. Until then, just know that I found this one tasty little meal tonight. And I’m glad I had it in my freezer for the day I was having. The fact that it tasted good as well was the added bonus!
While Indy was in town this past week, we really wanted to treat her to a nice dinner, welcoming her in true foodie style, to the area. It just so happens that while we were at Disneyland last September, she treated everyone to a tasting menu at the Chef’s Counter of Napa Rose…complete with wine pairings. It still ranks up there as one of the most amazing meals I have ever had the opportunity to eat. Disneyland’s chefs work really well around my dietary needs, and my meal was completely gluten-free and vegetarian…complete with the perfect wine to compliment each dish we were served.
Well, this gave us an idea…to treat her to a tasting menu at one of our local restaurant’s chef’s tables. It happens that three local restaurants have a chef’s table. And after a little debate…Cathy and I decided on a new hotspot in town, Rye. Rye is located in the NULU region of Louisville…and it seemed right up our alley. Cathy got in touch with the restaurant, speaking with PR and Events Coordinator, Erin MacDonaold, and made arrangements, explaining my dietary needs and that she and Indy would be up for anything. But they had to stay within the perimeters of my diet for me. The chef and the restaurant had no problem with that, so…it was set. Friday night…we’d be treating Indy to a tasting menu with drink pairings at Rye.
The most difficult part was not telling Indy we were doing this. The only instruction we gave her was to bring something nice to eat dinner out in on Friday night. That was it. That was all she got. And we didn’t even give her the name of the restaurant until we were getting close to it, even though she asked because she wanted to look it up on Yelp. We have our ways. Anyway, once she knew which restaurant, she seemed pretty excited about that. The chef’s counter, however, remained a surprise until we got inside and Cathy let them know our reservation. As we were being walked back to the counter at the kitchen, Indy leaned in and said, “Did I hear chef’s counter.” HAHAHA!! Yes, my dearest foodie friend. Yes…you did!
We were seated at the counter, facing into the kitchen, getting a first-hand view of the chefs at work. I was soaking this in, just watching how they worked together, talked, and even put together each dish. It was heaven to me. I still have a dream of being a chef. Maybe one day it will happen. But this…was a treat and I was enjoying it.
At Rye, that evening, we were assigned to the caring hands of Chef Joe Banet, Bar Manager Doug Petry, and Alyssa, who was around for anything we might need or questions we might have. Let me tell you, this team was amazing. Doug had the drinks out to us just before the food was brought over by Chef Joe. And Alyssa made sure we had everything we needed, from fresh silverware to full glasses of water. It was incredible. And, within a few minutes of looking over our menu that Chef Joe prepared, he came over to introduce himself and explain that he would have our first course up in no time. Our first course…of what would be an 8 course tasting menu.
The only difference between my menu and those of Indy and Cathy was that mine was strictly vegetarian, so I was served a cooked vegetable instead of the protein they received. My drink was different in a few occasions too, better paired with my vegetable than their meat. Other than that…it was time to enjoy some good food and soak up the experience.
And it was off to a good start. Doug brought out our first drink, a Dolin Blanc with Sugar and Meyer Lemon Bitters. This accompanied our first course, which arrived a moment later…Radish with Whipped Butter. Granted, they had Caviar Butter with their Radish as well as a Potato Roll…but since I’m a gluten-free vegetarian…I received extra garnish on the radish with the whipped butter just beneath it with a hit of black salt. The radish was bitter, as it should be…and it was a bit odd being served with butter…especially since I had no way of really eating the butter. I put some on each bite of radish and it complimented the flavor well enough, the black salt cutting back on the bitterness by adding a little zing to each bite. Still a bit bizarre, but delicious. And that’s what mattered. The pairing with the Dolin Blanc was brilliant. The effervescence and lightness was a great way to start off the meal.
Our plates were cleared and things were given time to settle. But, after about 10 minutes our next drink was brought out. It was a Strawberry Lemonade. No alcohol in this one. Just a sweet palate refresher. Not but a moment later, Chef Joe appeared with three identical plates. The second course was Beets with Lavender-Mango Chutney, Labne, Hazelnut and Chervil. THIS…my dear friends, turned out to be my favorite course of the entire meal. Yes…this one. The roasted beets were fresh and fantastic. Perfect, really. And it paired so well with the labne (strained yogurt). The lavender-mango chutney was light and fresh. And topping it with toasted hazelnuts was a stroke of genius, as it gave a hit of texture when it was needed most. The fruitiness of the raspberry lemonade paired and played well with the sweet, yet earthy flavor of the beets. I was in foodie heaven with this one. I could have eaten another plate of that and been a happy girl.
Plates were cleared again and we were once again given time to chat, watch the chefs at work (we were trying to figure out just how many
oysters they shuck per night, because there was a lot of shucking over on our end of the counter!), observe some cooking techniques…and watch as the lights flickered and caused problems. The owner came over to apologize for the technical difficulties with the lights over the pass and asked if it was going to bother us as they fixed it because he could move us. We were content where we were, however. (On a completely different line of though, the phrase ‘where we were’ is kind of interesting to type!) Anyway, with that decision made, we were soon greeted by our third drink pairing prior to our entree. Cathy and Indy received a Stillwater Classique beer. This was a change from what was printed on the menu, so it took them by surprise. Since I’m gluten-free, my drink stayed true to the menu that was created, and I was served a glass of Chono Sauvignon Blanc. Cathy tasted her beer and didn’t like it much…but we still had food to pair with it. And Chef Joe appeared soon after, serving up our third course. This course was Asparagus with a Smoked Egg, Endive, and Pignoli (pine nuts). First of all…a smoked egg is the most wonderful thing in the world. It’s smokey and savory and rich and creamy and just made of complete yumminess. Seriously…if I had a smoker I would do this every morning for breakfast. In fact, I asked Chef Joe how to smoke an egg…and now I kind of feel like I need a smoker just to be able to do it. Yes…this was a rich dish. The smoked egg was velvety smooth and paired so well with the bitterness of the endive and the perfectly cooked white and green asparagus. I savored each and every bite. And because it was so rich, the wine pairing was perfect. This course was comfort food to me. For the record, Cathy never did really like the beer.
When plates were cleared, we all gazed down at our menus to see what was up next. This is where dishes started to really get different. Cathy and Indy were about to start getting their proteins. Mine stuck to a tried and true vegetable replacement for said protein. The rest of the dish would mirror each other. And, on some occasions…the drinks would be different.
Such was the case for the fourth course of the night. This one was a light serving, which was what we needed after all the richness in the smoked egg and asparagus course. Doug brought over our drink pairings for the upcoming course. Cathy and Indy were given another beer, this time Stiegl Grapefruit Radler. Cathy was pretty certain she’d hate it since she hates grapefruit, but this turned out to be one of her favorite drinks of the night. Go figure. As for me, Doug paired mine with a Pineapple Blush, which he described in great detail and all I remember about it is that it had vinegar in it. That just seemed strange. But I gave it a sip prior to the dish coming up and it actually had a refreshing taste. The vinegar worked. Chef Joe brought over soup bowls for us. My soup was Sweet Potato in a broth made from Coconut Milk and flavored with Kaffir Lime Leaf and Cilantro. The broth was the same for Cathy and Indy, but they had Crab and Clam in their soup, not sweet potato. I loved how light this course was, and how refreshing. I am a sucker for soups as it is, and this one was perfection. Seriously. The broth was creamy without being filling. The sweet potatoes were soft and delicate and perfect. The seasoning was spot on. And who doesn’t love an amazing soup? Fantastic. And the drinks paired perfectly. I enjoyed sipping my Pineapple Blush between tastes of my soup. Delish.
Our bowls were taken away and we watched as more food was prepared, put up at the pass, looked over by the expediter, and then sent out to
tables. It was so awesome watching the kitchen work while we ate. Doug returned with three glasses of identical drinks. We were each served one and he explained that we were about to taste a Gin that was done up with Lemon, Sugar and topped off with a Cucumber Sea Foam. I figured this one would be interesting because I’m not a big fan of gin…at all…but the cucumber sea foam sounded A-MAZ-ING! I took a sip, and while it did taste a little gin-y…the cucumber sea foam gave it this refreshing taste. I actually found myself liking this one. And, on cue, Chef Joe came over with our course. The fifth course of the night, for me, was a fantastically grilled Cauliflower with Harissa, Almond, Arugula and Cucumber. Ah…a match to that cucumber sea foam. Cathy and Indy were served Monkfish instead of the cauliflower. First of all, the harissa was amazing. This chili pepper paste was a nice play against the refreshing cucumber and the warm cauliflower. In fact, I was trying to get a little harissa in each bite because I loved how it worked with everything on the plate. The almonds added a nice hit of texture. Yeah…this one was so good. Now I want harissa in my kitchen to use on my own cauliflower when I cook it. Cathy fell in love with the monkfish, but Indy wasn’t as sold on it.
Another plate clearing and more time to let things settle. We were starting to get full, but we were over the halfway point. And thankfully these were small plates. This time, our food beat the drink to our counter. So, Chef Joe went ahead and described our sixth course to us. For me, I was given Broccoli Rabe with Ramps, Hon-Shemeji Mushrooms, Yellow Grits, and Lovange. Cathy and Indy were served Rabbit with their ramps, mushrooms, grits and lovange. We waited for a moment and a minute later, Doug was at our sides giving us each a glass of Leese-Fitch Zinfandel. We now felt ready to dig in. I sipped the wine first, finding that bitterness that I often find with red wine. But it was good. And when I took a bite of the broccoli rabe with the ramps (onions) and the earthy mushroom…it was a perfect pairing. My favorite part, however, was the grits. And as I lived in Alabama for six years and never liked grits, this totally surprised me. I couldn’t say enough good things about these grits. This was a fantastic course and we all polished it off. Indy much preferred the rabbit over the monkfish, saying that the cuter your food is, the better it tastes. Veggies must be really cute, because my food was really good.
And so…our plates were cleared once more and we waited, talking about how the impending food wall was approaching. But we didn’t care. The food was some of the most amazing I had in a long time. This was definitely a treat. Doug appeared at our sides with a glass of Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir and talked about how it would pair well with our next course. Chef Joe arrived with our plates. I was given Fennel with Parsnip, Black Garlic, Red Watercress, Pistachio, and an Orange-Mustard Jus. Cathy and Indy had Duck instead of the fennel. Wow. I loved how the Fennel was grilled and cooked down to perfection. The parsnip puree was perfect. It wasn’t gritty at all. The black garlic paired well with everything, seasoning it perfectly. I loved how the pistachio gave it some texture. And, surprisingly, the orange-mustard jus was delicious and just amped up the flavor of the dish. Cathy and Indy definitely seemed happy with the duck. And when we were done eating, we were all eying the menu. One course to go…and it was dessert. I always have room for dessert.
Gone were our dishes and Cathy was really, really looking forward to our dessert. Why? It was lemon. And we are both huge fans of anything lemon. Seriously. Even better, the chef changed the way it was made so we could all have the same dish and it could be kept gluten-free. This made me a happy, happy girl. Doug appeared with our final drink pairing of the night. This was a Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux. I love dessert wines. LOVE. If I could drink dessert wine all the time, I would totally do it. Pure perfection. This was light and crisp and just…delicious. I had to remind myself to save some for the dessert. Chef Joe brought out the most amazing looking dessert of all time. Seriously. It was Lemon Curd with Macadamia Brittle and a Pink Peppercorn Meringue. First of all…salty and sweet. Second of all…LEMON!! This was a fantastic and light dessert. And I wanted to devour it quickly because it was so delicious…but I managed to keep my sweet tooth under control and really savor each bite. The lemon flavor was spot on. Not too much. Just right. And the pink peppercorn meringue was fantastic. Light. Fluffy. Topped with the macadamia brittle that just tied everything together and gave it a crunch, which was needed in an otherwise soft dessert. This was love in dessert form. Lemon-y, nutty, meringue-y love. And I had to make sure I got a bit of everything in each bite.
Rye really, really outdid themselves. Not only were we treated well from the start, but the food they served up was beyond anything I could have imagined. They were more than happy to work with and around my food allergies and dietary needs. Sitting at the chef’s counter was an amazing treat that was worth every bit of money we poured into that meal. This was more than a dinner out with my foodie friends…this was a foodie experience.
If you haven’t checked out Rye yet…you should. Their menu sounds amazing and they are very good with dietary restrictions. Their kitchen is clean and kept that way. Their staff is knowledgeable. And I can’t wait to go back again and try some food off their standard menu.
It’s the night before a race…so you know what that means, right?
Except…not today. I didn’t have anything in my apartment to work pizza into the equation…so I had to break with my pizza before a race tradition and come up with something I could make with items I did have on hand. Well, today is the day my CSA bin was delivered and one of the items nestled inside was beautiful rainbow chard.
It was from there…and the fact that I keep polenta on hand in my pantry…that I threw together this recipe for a later than usual dinner. It was delicious and relatively easy to make. As I am lactose intolerant, I substituted the ricotta cheese for silken tofu and used Daiya vegan mozzarella cheese.
The rest of the recipe is from Epicurious…but I really enjoyed it with my substitutions. So delicious.
Recipe: Baked Polenta with Rainbow Chard and Cheese
1 pound rainbow chard, thick stems and ribs removed, leaves cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
3 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal) or yellow cornmeal
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (I used Nosoya Silken Tofu)
2 large eggs
2 cups coarsely grated low-fat mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces) (I used Daiya mozzarella shreds)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Lightly oil 2-quart glass baking dish. Heat oil in heavy large deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in garlic and crushed red pepper, then chard; cover and cook until chard is tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Uncover; stir until any excess liquid in skillet evaporates. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring 3 1/2 cups water and salt to boil in heavy large saucepan. Gradually stir polenta into boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until polenta is very thick, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Whisk ricotta and eggs in bowl; whisk in 1 cup hot polenta. Stir ricotta mixture into polenta in saucepan.
Spread half of polenta mixture in baking dish. Spread half of chard mixture over. Sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Repeat layering with remaining polenta, chard, and cheese.
Bake until puffed and brown on top, about 45 minutes.
Cool 30 minutes.
You would never be able to tell that this recipe was made with tofu instead of ricotta cheese, and with vegan cheese over regular. The onions, chard, and garlic mixture is delicious. And the polenta made a delicious, creamy addition once it was cooked up. I loved this and am so happy that I have another 3 days worth of it. YUMMY!
Best part…each serving has 259 calories. That’s it! Amazing. Delicious. And quite satisfying. I served this with a salad made up from fresh produce, also from my CSA bin. This recipe does take some time to cook…but the end result is worth it. I would make this again in a heartbeat.
Now…we’ll see how this does when it comes to my race day performance.
I might be sorry I skipped out on pizza…but this was definitely a huge, tasty, epic dinner win!