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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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It’s a simple trick:  if you whisk egg whites until they are fluffy, they expand, by a huge amount.  Add a few tasty low fat ingredients and you can create a big breakfast that is healthy, filling, and very low calorie.

This recipe makes a dozen omelette pikelets with just three eggs.

The Recipe:

Separate the yolks and whites of three eggs.

Whisk the whites with an egg beater until they are light and fluffy.  An old fashioned egg beater is a fantastic tool and this is much easier than some cookbooks make it out to be!  Use your older eggs (very fresh eggs are a little harder to beat), at room temperature, use a clean bowl and be careful not to get any yolk in the white.  (I separate the eggs one by one into a cup, then pour the whites into a bowl.  That way, if a yolk breaks I can just put that whole egg in the filling and crack another for its white.)

Blanch a bunch of spinach, or strip the green leaf from about 4 or 5 silver beet leaves and blanch by steaming briefly.  In the food processor, blend them with the egg yolks and about 50 grams of low fat feta cheese, a dessertspoon of low fat cottage cheese, and a dessertspoon of wholemeal self raising flour.

Fold this mixture into the egg whites.

Drop tablespoons of the mixture into a pan with just a little olive oil, and fry on a medium flame till they are set and golden.

They’re good with a tomato salsa or chutney or chilli jam.

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I can’t say this is fast and easy.  It’s a long slow Sunday afternoon recipe, and it creates quite a bit of washing up!  But there’s a good return on investment – for an hour or so of Sunday afternoon baking, you can have several very healthy dinners and lunches made ready for the week.  And you won’t get sick of eating it.

There are three parts to this recipe:  the vegetables, the tomato sauce and the bechamel sauce.

The Vegetables:

Turn the oven on to warm up.

You can use a variety of vegetables in season. For this version I used an orange sweet potato,  half a pumpkin, two large eggplants, 400 grams of mushrooms, and a bunch of baby spinach, but feel free to substitute.

The eggplants are the slowest process, so start with them.  Slice into centimetre thick slices, sprinkle with salt, and put in a colander in the sink to drain.

Next the sweet potato.  It needs a bit of a head start cooking, so slice it into centimetre thick slices, massage with olive oil, spread out on a baking tray and bake to half cook, so the slices are just starting to get tender.

Slice the mushrooms and pumpkin into centimetre thick slices too.  Leave the spinach leaves whole.

By now the eggplants have drained enough.  Rinse and pat dry, massage in oil, and add to the sweet potato in the oven.

The Tomato Sauce

Saute a large onion, diced, in a little olive oil.  Add two or three cloves of garlic, chopped fine, and a diced capsicum, then half a dozen large tomatoes, diced (or a can of tomatoes) and a good handful of basil chopped.  Simmer gently to reduce to a fairly thick tomato sauce.

The Bechamel

In a saucepan, cook four good dessertspoons of plain wholemeal flour in 6 desertspoons of olive oil till it foams.  The idea is to explode the starch in the flour without browning it.  Add two cups of low fat milk and half a cup of low fat ricotta or cottage cheese and two bay leaves.  Cook, stirring, till it thickens. Fish out the bay leaves and add salt and pepper.

The Assembly

Oil a baking dish and place the partly-cooked sweet potato in a single layer in the bottom of it.  Cover with half the tomato sauce, then half the bechamel.  Spread a layer of pumpkin slices on top, then a layer of mushrooms and a layer of spinach leaves.  Cover with the other half of the tomato sauce, then the partly-cooked eggplant slices, then the other half of the bechamel sauce.  Sprinkle the top with grated parmesan.  Pop it back in the middle of a moderate oven and bake for about 25 minutes till the cheese is golden on top and the vegetables are tender.

It’s good hot or cold.

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