Archive | February 2014

Polenta, Pomodoro & Oyster Mushrooms

Mushroom Polenta

I love polenta, but don’t make it often because all semblance of self-control seems to go out the door as I inevitably always end up overheating. It’s not so much the serving that makes it onto my plate (I won’t lie, it’s bigger than it should be), but more so what I tend to eat while I’m plating and then when I’m storing leftovers.

What can I say? It’s Italian comfort food at its best! I have such fond memories of watching my mom make this classic dish. Its golden colour, beyond creaminess, and extremely satisfying. In our household, it served as a bed for no other than our homemade tomato sauce, what I call liquid gold. Anything else would have been sacrileges.

What you are getting in this week’s recipe is actually two classic dishes
: polenta and pomodoro and pomodoro and oyster mushrooms. What a treat!

Though I make this dish as I was taught in the traditional way, with olive oil, parmigiano, and fresh herbs, I’ve changed it up this time to boost the protein content. Beware, though delicious, my mother would not approve. I kept the olive oil for richness, but instead of the parmigiano, I used nutritional yeast, added hemp seeds for protein, and chives instead of fresh herbs, as the pomodoro is amply aromatized with fresh rosemary, a very nice complement to the oyster mushrooms as well as the pomodoro. My mom was quick to tell me that basil would have, of course, worked better, but I disagree. Fresh basil is classic with pomodoro, but rosemary works better with oyster mushrooms. I’ve convinced her to give it a try.

As for the oyster mushrooms, normally they are sautéed in some olive oil and then the processed tomato wedges get added. It’s delicious, but the mushrooms tend to water down the pomodoro for a more liquidy consistency. I opted to cook both separately and added the mushrooms to the pomodoro at the very end after they were both fully cooked.

Truly, this is one of my favourite dishes and by far my preferred way to serve polenta. It’s creamy. It’s sweet. It’s chewy. So satisfying on so many levels.

Serves 4


 Olive oil  ½ cup
 Mushrooms, oyster  3 lbs (48 oz)
 Black pepper
 Parsley, fresh, chopped
 Tomato wedges  64 oz
 Olive oil  ½ cup + 2 tbsp (or 10 tbsp)
 Salt  1 tsp
 Black pepper
 Garlic, crushed, whole  3 cloves
 Rosemary, fresh  2 sprigs
 Cornmeal  1 cup
 Water  4 cups
 Salt  ½ tsp
 Black pepper
 Olive oil  3 tbsp
 Hemp seeds  4 tbsp
 Nutritional yeast  1 tbsp
 Chives, fresh, chopped  10 grams (1/4 bunch)

1. To prepare the mushrooms, in a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, salt, and black pepper and cook until liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms start to caramelize, approximately 30 – 45 minutes. Remove from heat and garnish with parsley.

2. To make the pomodoro, process tomato wedges through a food mill or in a blender. In a medium pot, combine pureed tomatoes and olive oil and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add salt, black pepper, rosemary, and garlic. Cook for 45-60 minutes, or until thickened. The pomodoro should reduce by more than half.

3. For the polenta, in a medium pot, add salt, black pepper, olive oil and water and bring to a boil. Add cornmeal and nutritional yeast. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, using a whisk to stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chives and hemp seeds. 4. To assemble, divide polenta onto 4 plates. Top with pomodoro and mushrooms. Garnish with more parsley.

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper & Tofu Stew

Spicy Tofu Stew

The pictures for Vegetarian Times’ (VT) feature, “30 Minute Comfort in a Bowl”, in the January / February 2014 issue, looked quite enticing. So much so, I gave three of them a try and they have all been added to my repertoire of recipes.

I am always looking for quick and tasty tofu dishes, so was very much intrigued by their Spicy Tofu Stew recipe. Though the picture looked more like a soup to me and actually a bit watery, the list of ingredients impressed me enough to give it a try, with a few enhancements, of course.

I omitted the addition of the water to create a stew rather than a soup; I wanted a thicker consistency. Added tamari to ensure the tofu was well seasoned. Used my mom’s roasted peppers (which she roasts over charcoal when red peppers are in season and freezes for us), which imparted a subtle smoky flavour. I was not fussy about the hot sauce, but used one of the many permanently residing in my refrigerator (my husband loves hot sauce). Added garlic, of course, a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and enough avocado oil to impart some richness. I thought adding additional peppers to a roasted red pepper broth would be too much, so I opted instead for cauliflower. Finally, instead of firm tofu (which I can only eat if properly marinated), I used soft tofu instead.

The result was pretty incredible. The idea to make a broth from roasted red peppers was brilliant! The broth had substance, but wasn’t too thick. Red peppers and avocado are meant to be and combined with some freshly ground black pepper and that hint of smokiness, we could have slurped up the broth on its own. It was a velvety, fresh, intense, warm and inviting red sea! Roasted red peppers and cauliflower are very nice complements and the addition of the cauliflower and tofu really made this stew hearty. The spinach added a nice hit of colour and just the right amount of greens. I can’t say enough about this dish. Every spoonful seemed carefully crafted – nothing short of perfection.

Good job VT for reminding me that it is indeed possible to get delicious, complete vegetarian/vegan meals on the table in 30 minutes.

It’s a vegan stew to rival most traditional ones out there in that it is hearty and delicious, but it’s two better: faster and healthier than most! Vegan comfort food at its best! Happy stewing!

Serves 3


Avocado oil 4 tbsp + more for drizzling
Garlic, cloves, minced 3
Peppers, red, roasted 2 cups
Hot sauce 2 tbsp
Broth 2 cups
Tamari 3 tbsp
Black pepper
Cauliflower, medium, cut into 1-inch pieces 1
Spinach, baby 10 oz
Tofu, soft, cut inti 1.5-inch pieces 16 oz

1. In a food processor, puree roasted red peppers until smooth. Set aside.

2. In a medium soup pot, over medium heat, heat avocado oil.

3. Add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.

4. Add roasted red pepper puree, hot sauce, broth, tamari, and black pepper to pot. Bring to a boil.

5. Add cauliflower and season with salt. Simmer for approximately 5 minutes, until tender.

6. Add tofu and spinach and simmer a couple of minutes until spinach is wilted and tofu is heated.

7. Remove from heat. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with more avocado oil. Serve with a rustic, big piece of bread to scoop up all those roasted red pepper juices (we couldn’t resist).

Loaded Cheezy Fries

Cheezie Fries 2

My husband was very excited when I told him I’d be making “loaded cheesy fries”, until, that is, he learned I’d be experimenting with a vegan “cheeze” sauce. I am not joking. He literally rolled his eyes, which of course, upset me.

I’ll admit that he’s pretty patient, even when some of the experiments don’t work out so well, but it wasn’t the experimentation with which he was having issues. He just, and these are his words exactly, “didn’t want me messing with a good thing”. In other words, he likes cheese.

As usual, I ignored him and put my trusty t-fal actifry to handy use again. If you don’t have one, just bake the fries in the oven with a little oil, salt, and black pepper.

Much to his surprise, the cheeze sauce turned out to be very tasty. In fact, he had to admit it was down right good. The nutritional yeast, of course, gives it it’s depth, and combined with the Dijon mustard and vegetable bouillon cube, is reminiscent, almost, of an aged cheese. I opted for fresh onions and garlic, which I feel really separate this sauce from most of the stuff out there that incorporate the dried stuff instead. This sauce tastes rich, bold, and creamy, so much so, you won’t miss the real thing.

Top with whatever fresh nacho-type veggies plus black beans, for a complete meal.

Makes 4 cups (enough for 6 lbs of potatoes)
Serves 3 -4


Cheeze Sauce:
Canola oil ½ cup
Onion, Spanish, large, roughly sliced 1
Garlic, cloves, sliced 3
Salt 1 tsp
Black pepper
Nutritional yeast 3 tbsp
Mustard, Dijon 2 tbsp
Turmeric 1 tsp
Bouillon, crumbled 1
Flour 1/3 cup
Milk, hemp, unsweetened 3 cups
Potatoes, cut into French fries 6 lbs
Canola oil 9 tbsp (3 tbsp per 2 lb of potatoes, if using T-fal Actifry)
Tomatoes, diced
Green onions, diced
Jalapeños, diced
Green olives, diced
Black beans


  1. For the potatoes, wash, dry, and hand cut potatoes into French fries. Place potatoes on a paper towel and dry thoroughly. Place in T-fal fryer. Add 3 tablespoons of canola oil (per 2 lb of potatoes) and season with salt and black pepper. Set timer for 45 minutes. Alternatively, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until potatoes are golden brown. You’ll need more oil if using this method.
  2. To make the cheeze sauce, in a medium pot, heat the canola oil.
  3. Add Spanish onion and cook for 10-12 minutes until onion is translucent, but not caramelized.
  4. Add garlic, salt, and black pepper and cook for a couple minutes more until garlic is fragrant.
  5. Remove pot from heat. Scoop onion mixture into a food processor and process until thoroughly combined and smooth. This step is important to avoid a chunky sauce.
  6. Return onion mixture to pot over medium heat.
  7. Add nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, turmeric, and crumbled bouillon into onion mixture and combine well.
  8. After a couple minutes, add flour and thoroughly combine. Cook for a couple of minutes.
  9. One ladle at a time, whisk in the hemp milk until the sauce becomes smooth and creamy.
  10. Adjust seasoning adding salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer sauce for 3-4 more minutes or until you achieve the desired consistency.
  11. To assemble, divide potatoes into 3-4 portions. Generously ladle cheeze sauce over French fries. Top with assorted veggies (tomatoes, green onions, jalapenos, green olives) and black beans. Check seasoning (of dish) and add salt and black pepper, if so desired.