February 26, 2008
Don't let the long title scare you. This fabulous dish is so easy to make you may find yourself standing around the kitchen looking for something to do. It's very versatile, too. You could leave out the tofu and polenta, for example, and serve the braised kale as a vegetable. Or serve it over basmati rice or rice thread noodles. I highly recommend trying the polenta, though. It's delish and serves four.
The polenta is based on a recipe from Passionate Vegetarian. The author says it's an old Tuscan peasant recipe. Here it is:
-1 cup course grind cornmeal (our co-op sells a bulk course grind labeled "polenta") or fine grind cornmeal
-3 1/2 cups water
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-1 tablespoon yeast flakes (not brewers yeast powder), optional but recommended
Oil a 3 quart oven-proof skillet or dish. Put all ingredients in dish and mix together casually.
Put the dish, uncovered, in a pre-heated 350˚ oven. Bake for 40 minutes, undisturbed. After 40 minutes, stir and bake 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes. Creamy, dreamy, heartwarming polenta. mmm.
I always make this polenta in a 3 1/2 quart enamelled cast iron casserole pan from Le Creuset. It's one of three pieces of this cookware that I own, and it gets used nearly every day. Because the pan isn't supposed to go directly from cold to hot, I put it in the oven when I turn it on to pre-heat, and start the timer when the oven reaches the correct temperature.
Braised greens with tofu, cashews and raisins
-1 pound kale (or other sturdy greens like mustard) I used a bunch of kale -no idea what it weighed
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1/2 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon tamari
-1/4 cup cashews
-1/2 cup bread crumbs (one slice of bread should be about right)
-1/4 cup raisins
-1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
-one good sized carrot, peeled
-1/2 teaspoon natural sugar
-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (unseasoned)
-freshly ground black pepper
1. Rinse greens, remove thick stems, coursely shred and set aside.
3. Place the tofu cubes in a small bowl and drizzle with one teaspoon tamari. Toss to coat all the cubes. Let sit five minutes.
3. Heat one tablespoon oil in wok or skillet. Add the tofu cubes and cook over high heat until browned.
4. Turn the heat down. Add the mushrooms, cashews and bread crumbs and sauté until they are lightly browned. Stir in the raisins. Remove mixture from pan and set aside.
5. Add the other tablespoon of oil to pan, shred the carrot right into the pan, increase heat to high and add the greens. Stir to mix, then cover and cook about three minutes until the greens have wilted but are still bright green. (Be careful not to burn them.)
6. Reduce heat, stir in sugar and vinegar, and season to taste. Add the tofu mixture. Spread over polenta.
Sometimes I spread the polenta on a large serving platter and place the veggies on top. You can decorate with parsley and olives.
The whole vegetable part took about 15-20 minutes including prep time, so plan accordingly so you can have the veggies and polenta finish cooking about the same time. This part of the recipe is based on a recipe that I think is from the NY Times. I'm not sure though.
March 19 Update: I'm in Seattle visiting family and doubled this recipe to feed five or six adults with lots of leftovers. When I went to stir the polenta after 40 minutes, it was still liquidy. I panicked. Did I forget to double the cornmeal? Was the oven temperature wrong? Then I realized that of course, larger amounts of food require longer cooking times. Duh. After another half hour, it was ready to stir. In the meantime, I cut up all the ingredients and put them into little bowls, ready to go. When the polenta was done, I turned off the oven but left the dutch oven in there. Then I prepared the braised veggies, and I felt like a TV cook! You know how they make it look so easy in those TV kitchens by having all the ingredients in little dishes and just popping the stuff into the pan. Well, it really IS easy to have the ingredients on hand.