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avocado lime and coriander dip

My glut crop at the moment is coriander.  In a few weeks time it will all go to seed.  Babies planted now will hardly leaf up before running to seed.  So now’s the time to make the most of it.  If you click “coriander” in the list in the right margin, you’ll find that I seem to have quite a few recipes with it.  It’s one of those flavours you either love or hat.  In one of those serendipities so common with food, avocado, limes and coriander are all in season together.

The dip is really simple – just avocado blended with lots of coriander leaf (more than you would think) and lime juice and salt to taste (not too much of either).

The chips though are a really good invention.  They don’t have much oil in them, and you can use monounsaturated olive oil and avoid the horrible transfats in bought chips.

Baked Sourdough Corn Chips

Mix equal amounts of sourdough starter with dry polenta.

Let it sit for half an hour or more for the polenta to fully soak.  Then add:

  • A good pinch of salt
  • A handful of grated parmesan
  • A few spoonfuls of olive oil
  • Enough bakers’ flour to make a soft dough (it won’t need much).

Knead briefly, then cover with a clean cloth and let it sit for a few hours for the sourdough to develop.

Flour the benchtop and a rolling pin and roll the dough out very thin.  Place on an oiled biscuit tray and trim to fit, then score into triangles.

Bake for about 20 minutes in a medium hot oven till the chips are just golden.  Watch carefully at the end because they burn fast.

They will keep for a while in an airtight jar.

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pumpkin pecan polenta balls

These are good.  Really good.  Better than they look.  They have the sweetness of pumpkin with a moist cake-y polenta centre.  They’re good hot but specially good cold, which makes them ideal for lunches or for nibbles.  They’re super fast and easy to put together, and these days we have the wood stove going so a hot oven just going to waste unless I find something to put in it.

Pumpkins are my glut crop at the moment.  They’re not exactly a glut – my brush turkeys take care of that – but when you cut just one pumpkin, it becomes a glut.  There’s never enough room in the fridge so it’s a race to use all of it before it goes off.

The Recipe:

This is a bit of a make it up as you go recipe.  The quantities aren’t very exact, because it depends on what kind of pumpkin you are using, and how much of it.

  • You need an oiled baking tray of pumpkin, cut into bite sized pieces.
  • Over the top of the pumpkin, scatter a couple of good handfuls of pecans.  I can’t see why it wouldn’t work just as well with any other kind of nut, but pecans is what I usually have in glut at the same time as pumpkins, so I’ve always used pecans. 
  • Scatter a diced onion and a couple of cloves of roughly chopped garlic over too.  

Bake until the pumpkin is soft. In a medium-hot oven, this will only take 15 minutes or so.

Tip the lot into a food processor. Add

  • an egg,
  • a good pinch of salt,
  • and a couple of big dessertspoons of polenta.

 Pulse the mix.  You are aiming to chop rather than puree it, aiming for a texture like a stiffish cake mix. If your pumpkin is very dry, you will use less polenta, if it is moist you will use more.  

pumpkin pecan polenta balls mix

Mix polenta and sesame seeds 50-50 on a plate.

Drop dessertspoons full of the mixture onto the plate and roll them in in the polenta sesame mix to coat.  Make into nice balls a bit smaller than a golf ball, about two-bite size.  Place them on an oiled baking tray.

Bake for around 40 minutes in a medium oven, till lightly browned.

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Capsicums are the feature crop out of my garden this week, and they are so much in season that even if you aren’t growing them, you should be able to get beautiful local ones at Farmers Markets.  I steer clear of the standard California Wonder – the variety you find in supermarkets. It’s lower yielding, shorter lived, more vulnerable to fruit fly, and less heat and drought tolerant than I need. My favourite varieties at the moment are Corno de Toro, Hungarian Yellow wax, and one I call Supermarket Flats because the seed came from some capsicums I bought in the supermarket, just because they were unusual and I hoped they might be non-hybrid. I think they are actually Baby Reds, and they are doing brilliantly for me.

So roast capsicums are the star in the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week. Polenta goes really well with them, and of course, this time of year, I put zucchini in everything.

The Recipe

Makes two dinner serves, but can easily be doubled.

The Polenta

Lightly sauté

  • one finely diced spring onion (greens and whites)
  •  with 2 cloves of garlic finely diced.

Add

  • ½ cup of grated zucchini
  • ¼ cup finely chopped basil
  • ½ cup fine polenta
  • 2 cups water 

Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes till it goes very thick, like thick porridge. Then add 70 gm low fat feta, grated, and continue cooking, stirring, for just a minute or two to melt the feta through. (You can leave out the feta if you are avoiding dairy, and it will still work, but it does make it lovely and creamy). Taste and add salt to taste.  (It doesn’t need much – the feta is salty).

Turn the mixture out into an oiled small pie plate or tray. You want it to be  about 2 cm deep.  Use the back of a wet spoon to smooth the top. Put the pie plate in the coldest part of your fridge, or in the freezer, for about 10 minutes to set.

Roast Capsicum and Tomato

To do this in half an hour, you need to multitask and put the capsicum on to char while the polenta is cooking. You can skip this stage, but it is really worth doing.

  • Char the skin of some capsicums over a gas flame, or under a grill, or over a barbeque. I like a mixture of red and yellow, and how many depends on how big they are. Use tongs to turn until the skin is blackened and blistering all over. Quickly put the hot capsicums in a plastic bag or tupperware container or a small pot with a lid – something that will hold in the steam. Leave them to steam and cool until you can handle them. You should then be able to easily rub off the skin. Don’t worry if there are little bits of charred skin left – it adds to the flavour. Slice the capsicum open, discard the seeds, and slice the flesh into strips.
  • In a frypan, saute in olive oil one large or two small red onions, sliced,  and two or three cloves of finely chopped garlic. Add the capsicum and just a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.
  • Add  a good handful of halved cherry tomatoes and heat them through. You don’t want the cherry tomatoes to cook down, just heat up.

Frying the Polenta and Assembling

The polenta should be set. Turn it out onto a board and slice into slabs.  Heat a heavy frypan with a little olive oil up to very hot. Don’t put the polenta in until it is hot, or it will stick.

Fry the polenta till it is golden, turning once. Try not to keep turning it – you will get a better crust by turning just once.
Serve with the roast capsicum on top.

Are you doing the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge, or cooking easy, healthy, in season, weeknight vego recipes regularly? Links are welcome in the Comments.

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I’m loving my gem iron.  I found it in an op shop, and it’s the perfect implement for breakfast baking because gems are so very fast.    This recipe takes just minutes to make – with a bit of practice you can probably have it on the breakfast table within less than 15 minutes. And gone within 20. If you can manage to make enough for leftovers, they go well in a lunch box.  If you can manage to make leftovers.

The Recipe:

Turn the oven on to  high and put the gem iron on the top shelf. It needs to be sizzling hot before you put the batter in.

For a dozen gems, mix together:

  • a generous ½ cup of  polenta
  • a generous ½ cup plain flour
  • good teaspoon of baking powder
  • good pinch salt

Whisk together

  • 1 large egg
  • a generous half cup of buttermilk (or substitute  plain low fat yoghurt mixed 50/50 with water)
  • a dessertspoon of olive oil

Mix the wet mix into the dry mix.  Just whisk them together – don’t overmix. You will end up with a  batter like muffin batter.

Take the hot gem iron out of the oven and put a tiny dob of butter in each hollow.  You only need a small teaspoonful altogether.  It will sizzle.  Tilt the iron to spread the melted butter.

Working quickly, spoon the batter into the hot gem iron, filling each hollow two thirds full.

Put a little cube of feta cheese in each gem, and spoon the rest of the batter in on top, so the cheese is in the middle. I made these with Danish feta, which semi-melted beautifully.

Put the tray back in the oven, near the top and up fairly high. Bake for around 6 minutes till the gems are risen, golden and set.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal”. I’m going for a year’s worth of breakfast recipes, based on in-season ingredients, quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and  preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste.  The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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This is a riff on Mollie Katzen’s Green Green Noodle Soup, with a little bit of “Green Eggs and Ham” inspiration.  Polenta is ground corn and not hard to make if you grow corn in summer. In fact, it is probably the grain staple most suited to  my climate. It’s medium GI and a good source of fibre, minerals and B6.  Its creamy texture and fairly bland flavour make it loved by kids, so this could be a good way to convince kids that green is good. It also makes it a good carrier for flavours.

If you grow your own corn for polenta, it will take 40 minutes or so to cook. But if you use the fast cooking polenta that is the kind commonly sold, this recipe comes together in literally half an hour, and it’s worth it.

The Recipe:

All the vegetables in this recipe are diced fairly fine.

Saute in a little olive oil (adding in more or less this order)

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 – 3 spring onions (whites and greens)
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic
  • a bunch of spinach or 6 – 8 silver beet leaves stripped from the stem and chopped
  • half a cup of chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil

As soon as it is all wilted, add ½ cup of polenta and 2 cups of water.

Cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes or so until it is thick and creamy.

Crumble in 80 grams of low fat feta cheese and cook for a minute or two to melt it through. Taste and add salt to taste.

At this point you have two choices. You can leave the vegetables as they are, or you can blend the mixture till they fleck the polenta, or blend thoroughly so you have green polenta. Kids seem to like the smooth texture and interesting colour of green polenta, but I like the flavour textures of it unblended.

Lightly grease a shallow metal pan and spread the polenta mix in it so that it is about 1.5 cm thick. Pop this in the freezer for a few minutes. It will set in literally 5 minutes and you will be able to tip it out onto a board and cut it into squares or triangles.

While it is setting heat some olive oil with a little knob of butter in a heavy pan. Fry the squares of polenta on a high heat for a few minutes on each side until they are browned and have a crisp crust. (You’ll get a better crust if you can restrain yourself to turn them just once.)

They are great as a main feature with a tomato-based sauce and a salad, or as a side dish with meat or chicken, or as the base for a poached egg.

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