Thursday, February 01, 2007

Flurry of activity in the kitchen...

We'll start off tonight's post a bit in reverse and talk about dessert first. Our freezer is usually well stocked, but it has been lacking lately and nothing grabbed my interest when I checked inside. So I peaked through my recipe stacks and picked out one that would be quick and different enough from a cookie, cake or other baked goods we already had in the freezer.

I picked this recipe for Maple-Walnut Polenta Pudding as it uses up a bunch of pantry staples that we always have on hand. I was a bit skeptical though as when I think of polenta, the first thing that comes to mind is not something in the sweet realm. The recipe uses instant polenta which takes just a couple minutes to cook - so at least we would know quick enough if it was going to work for us. The polenta is whisked into vanilla soymilk with a touch of cinnamon and salt. Once it comes to a boil, dried cranberries are mixed in and the mixture slowly bubbles away and thickens up. Pure maple syrup is then stirred in to fully lure the polenta to the sweet side. To serve, we scattered crunchy toasted walnuts on top and added a dusting of cinnamon. We also warmed up just a little more maple syrup and let it sit for a minute to cool back down; this thickens the syrup just enough so we could drizzle on top. Creamy, thick and very satisfying, this unusual concoction was pleasantly surprising and can be whipped up in a snap to itch that sweet scratch.

I'm not sure if the freezing temperatures out West are causing a shortage or what, but I had a hard time locating fresh broccoli for tonight's side dish of Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Spicy Southeast Asian Flavors. First up to make is a thick spicy sauce made from peanut butter, hoisin sauce, fresh lime juice, garlic, brown sugar and sriracha. When the sauce is done, a large skillet with canola oil is heated until quite hot - then chunky broccoli floret pieces are added and left alone until the bottoms begin to caramelize. Just a couple tablespoons of water with seasonings are added and the skillet is covered to allow the broccoli to steam just until crisp-tender. Fresh basil is added for a quick punch of flavor, followed by the sauce which gives the broccoli a zesty coating that has a bit of a tang to it. To add a bit of crunch and tie the flavors together, chopped roasted peanuts are scattered over the top. Be sure to have everything ready to go when you start this recipe; this dish progresses quickly and you don't want to overcook your veggie!

Most of the work for tonight's main dish of Black Bean and Corn Stew is just opening up a few cans of pantry goods! All you need to do is chop an onion, mince some garlic and stir the pot once in awhile... not too shabby for a weeknight eh? This is a chunky and hearty veggie stew filled with black beans, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, corn and some green chiles that add a depth of flavor, rather than heat. Cumin is added with the garlic which allows it to gently toast and unearth its smoky taste - it also pairs well with the black beans and backed up the flavor of the chiles. After the stew has simmered a bit, just a couple cups are taken out to be pureed - this will naturally thicken the mixture and allow it to still have some texture and integrity. If you don't feel like dirtying up more dishes, you could probably just use an immersion blender and be careful to not over-process. When I tasted to check for seasonings, it was very good - however, it felt like it needed something else... I looked around and remembered I still had some pepitas in the freezer. I toasted them up and gave each bowl a small handful - it brought an enticing nutty flavor and made for a snazzy finish.


  1. Oh, Joe, you should have contributed this for Soup and Stew Thursday! It looks great. Maybe next week?

  2. Cyndi - Oh snap! I'll keep that in mind next time - thanks for the reminder!