VEGAN PESTO POLENTA BOWL

My husband and I went out to the excellent Cafe Gratitude on the weekend, and my husband ordered a polenta bowl, which was so incredibly delicious. As is our habit, we spent much of the meal trying to deconstruct what we were eating, so I could attempt to duplicate it at home. This is my attempt and I have to say, it is really, really good. It’s hearty-enough for carnivores and a perfect vegan entree.

 

Serves 4

Cashew Cream

1 1/2 cups raw cashews, cover in water and soak overnight

1 cup water

2tsp lemon juice

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp sea salt

Polenta

1 1/2 cups of yellow corn grits or polenta

1 1/2 cups of water

1/2 tsp sea salt

Sauce

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 15-ounce can organic diced tomatoes

Topping

4 tbsp fresh pesto (you can make your own, but I purchased a tub from Wholefoods). If you want to make your own: Place 2 cups of basil leaves, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 garlic glove, 1/2 cup pine nuts, and 1/2 tsp salt in a high-speed blender until it reaches the desired consistency.

2 cups baby spinach leaves.

A handful of fresh basil leaves

 

To make the cashew cream. Place the soaked nuts, water, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a high-powered blender. I used my Vitamix. Blend until smooth. It should have the consistency of heavy cream, so add more water if need’s be. Place in a covered bowl and chill.

Place the grits, water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about five minutes, stirring continuously. Pour into a square, greased baking dish and allow to cool completely, before cutting into triangles.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the onions and garlic until soft. Add the tomatoes and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.

When you are ready to serve. Grease a grill pan with an olive oil spray and grill your polenta triangles until they are slightly browned on both sides.

Meanwhile, wilt your spinach.

Place two triangles in each bowl. Cover with a generous helping of the tomato sauce, followed by a spoon of spinach, and 1 tbsp of pesto and 1 tbsp of cashew cream. Top with a couple of fresh basil leaves.

 

PORTOBELLO & EGGPLANT STACKS WITH PESTO GRITS

I love a “stack’” -especially in the Summer when I can use heirloom tomatoes and tons of basil. This is one of my hubby’s favorites – coming from Southern Georgia, he loves his grits, especially when they are “adulterated” with pesto!

I love this for a weeknight family meal because it’s not at all fiddly to make. It’s all about creating little parcels and then throwing them on the grill. Even my ten year-old daughter loves this dish because it’s kind of meaty like a burger, but bursting with incredible Summery flavors.

PORTOBELLO & EGGPLANT STACKS WITH PESTO GRITS

1 large eggplant, cut into ¼”slices
4 large Portobello mushrooms, skins removed
4tsp olive oil
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into ¼” slices
1 ball buffalo mozzarella cheese, sliced
1cup yellow grits
21/2 cups water
2 tsp pesto, (jar or homemade is fine)
Sea Salt & cracked pepper to taste
A small bunch of fresh basil.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F or set your grill to “high”

Place your slices of eggplant in a colander in the sink and cover each slice with salt. Leave them for 1/2 an hour, then rinse of the salt and pat each slice dry.

Grease a grill pan with olive oil and set it over a high heat or on your grill.  Grill the eggplant slices until they soften and have lovely grill stripes over them (about 3-4 minutes each side). Remove and set them aside.

Cut out a 10×10” square of foil per mushroom.

Place a mushroom on each square and top with 1tsp olive oil and 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce.

Top with an eggplant slice and a tomato slice. Make a bundle/packet with the foil.

Place the packets in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and open packet. Top each stack with a thick slice of Mozzarella and place back in the oven for a further five minutes.

Meanwhile, place the grits in a small saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, while stirring continuously. Remove from heat, stir in 1 tbsp of olive oil, the pesto and season with the salt and pepper.

Pour a small lake of the pesto grits into the center of a large plate and using a spatula, carefully place a Portobello stack on top of the grits.

Finally, top with 3 or 4 basil leaves.