Tuesday, May 30, 2006

If You Can't Take the Heat...

Did I say it was hot here this weekend? Try 90+ temps today, something we don't usually see here until July. Whew!

You know the old saying: "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Well, my Dear Readers, I can take it... up to a point.

After finishing off the eggplant and chutney for lunch today, I realized my options for dinner were limited: some of the carrot bisque I had hoped to save for other lunches this week, or something made from scratch. (I know, the third option would be to go out to dinner, but as I exercised that option all too often last week, I wasn't willing to do it yet again.)

Fortunately, I had a new recipe in mind (another from Vegan With a Vengeance, which gets pretty high marks thus far), and it didn't require much time in the kitchen: millet-spinach polenta with sun-dried tomato pesto.

I started cooking the millet in my homemade vegetable stock, letting it simmer while I sorted and washed the spinach. As I pulled out the required herbs and spices, though, I stopped. Isa's original recipe called for Italian seasonings, but I still craved Indian food, and I didn't see any reason why I couldn't liven things up a little.

So instead of the oregano the recipe indicated should be added to the polenta, I pulled out dried Moroccan mint, curry powder, and a tiny touch of cardamom. And when I ran the softened sun-dried tomatoes through my little food processor, I added garlic, ground coriander, chili powder, and fresh cilantro.

The polenta needed to cool before serving, so I spread it in a small baking dish and slid it into the refrigerator. The recipe suggested slicing the firm polenta, then, and browning it in a frying pan, but I chose just to slip it onto my plate, top it with the pesto (which I think in this instance would be better labeled chutney), and head out to the cool shade of the backyard for another picnic dinner.

The millet polenta turned out creamy and mild with a pleasing hint of sweet curry and mint, and it was balanced by the salty, savory, chunky chutney. (I've lowered the quantity of salt in the recipe below, and I'll add that I used coarse sea salt, which tasted more salty than regular table salt.)

In short, perfect.

So good, in fact, that I had a second helping.

And with a coconut-ginger-lime bar for dessert, I was more than happy with my meal.

For food like this, I can definitely take the heat.

Curried Millet Polenta with Sun-Dried Tomato Chutney

As noted, the original recipe comes from Vegan With a Vengeance and would be equally good, I'm sure. But sometimes you just have to give in to that craving and change things a little. Go easy on the spices in the polenta as a nice mild base is preferable for the spicy chutney. Serve warm or cold.

1 c millet
3 c vegetable stock
1 T olive oil
2 c shredded fresh spinach, well rinsed
1-2 tsp dried mint
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
dash of black pepper

Toast millet in dry skillet for about 5 minutes over high heat, stirring constantly. Rinse until water runs clear; drain.

In saucepan, bring millet, stock, and olive oil to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes. Add spinach and spices; simmer another 10 minutes, uncovered, until all liquid is absorbed.

Spread polenta in a lightly greased baking dish and set aside for up to 2 hours to firm up. Make the chutney.

1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes
1 c boiling water
1/4 c almonds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
dash of black pepper
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro

Soak tomatoes in boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes, until softened. Drain some of the water off.

Grind almonds in small food processor. Add tomatoes and water along with remaining ingredients and process until finely chunky. Allow to sit for a few minutes or more for the flavors to develop.

Serve slices or wedges of polenta topped with chutney. Enjoy!

Serves 6 to 8


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