Thursday, January 22, 2009

Conscious Eating

Mark Bittman is at Hart House tonight promoting his new book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, one that Beppi Crosariol described as "part diet plan, part lifestyle manifesto and - the author being the author - part cookbook." In it he makes a strong argument to choose plant food over meat. I enjoy Bittman's New York Times column and blog, too bad I wasn't able to make it over to hear him speak first-hand. But his blog has tons of great recipes, along with video clips & demonstrations.

This particular recipe is from my Vegetarian Cooking class, tried & tested & true...

Mexican Polenta Lasagna with Fontina and Chillies

This dish is a great winter meal. Using the polenta instead of noodles is a nice touch... This lasagna tastes better the day after, giving some time for the flavours to set.

The thinly rolled polenta is tasty even before it goes into the lasagna, I'm thinking it would be an incredibly tasty base for a pizza-style presentation, with toppings of portabello mushroom, roasted peppers and caramelized onion! mmmmm A google image search proves I'm not the only one to have thought of this idea!

Polenta Layers
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves pureed garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
5 cups low sodium vegetable stock or water
1 ½ cups cornmeal (250g)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
-salt and pepper to taste –

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pureed
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper diced
4 green onions, chopped
1 x 4.5 can mild green chillies, chopped
2 x 14 oz. kidney beans, drained and rinses
1 x 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
12 oz. canned corn, drained
1 ½ Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 ½ Tbsp dried oregano
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 large eggs, well beaten
- salt and pepper to taste –

8 oz. Fontina cheese, grated
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Make polenta layer Heat olive oil in large saucepan over low heat, add garlic and oregano and sauté a few minutes or until garlic is softened. Add stock, raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and whisking constantly, add the cornmeal in a steady slow stream. Cook until the cornmeal pulls away from the sides (a couple of minutes). Stir in butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread thinly on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper (the dimensions of your lasagna pan) and allow to set, about one hour.
  3. Prepare filling In a large pt heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onions, sauté one minute and then add green and red peppers and continue cooking until peppers have begun to soften. Add remaining ingredients (except eggs and cheese) and cook uncovered for 10minutes or until mixture is thickened. Temper eggs with filling (by adding a bit of the hot mixture to the beaten eggs, stirring and then quickly returning the egg mixture to the filling, stirring constantly until thoroughly incorporated). Adjust seasoning and remove from heat.
  4. Prepare cheeses Toss the Fontina and Monterey Jack cheese together
  5. Layer Add a few Tbsp of the filling to the bottom of a 10 x 14 inch lasagna pan. Quickly but carefully flip one layer of the polenta into the lasagna pan. Add half the filling, half the cheese mixture, one more layer of polenta, the remaining half of the filling, and the remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly (if cheese starts to brown too quickly cover with tinfoil). Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into squares and serve.

- Recipe Sarah Harrell, The Veg Company

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