I love meat but I’m trying to make a more conscious effort cook more vegetarian dinners in our apartment. David’s not always thrilled about this idea, but I recently made a delicious dinner that stunned even David by how little he missed meat being on the table.
One of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks is Peter Berley’sThe Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. Berley clearly takes into account seasonal cooking, as each of his chapters contain sections for every season. There are no fancy pictures in this cookbook but the food speaks for itself. His combinations don’t necessarily go with my culinary instincts but the recipes still grab my interest, I experiment with them, and end up thinking they’re delicious. Unfortunately, a good number of the recipes contain gluten and are difficult to modify, but it’s still a handy and useful cookbook, even for those of us that must avoid gluten.
Recently I made Berley’s Savory Millet and Sweet Potato “Polenta” with Smothered Peppers and Onions. It turned out to be delicious and a very filling vegetarian meal. This recipe is also great if you’re cooking for vegans or vegetarians. Millet is a delicious gluten-free grain, with lots of nutrients and good flavor. The two components to this dish (the polenta and smothered peppers) go well together, but the polenta by itself is delicious and the peppers would be great with gluten-free pasta or on a pizza.
Savory Millet and Sweet Potato “Polenta” (4 to 6 servings)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
1 cup peeled and chopped sweet potato
1 small onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
1 cup millet, rinsed and dried
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Smothered Peppers & Onions
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 to 5 bell peppers (yellow, red or even purple), cored, sliced into ½-inch strips
Coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
¾ cup red wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
To make the polenta, warm oil in a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the sweet potato and onion and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent browning. Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the water, millet and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring vigorously several times during the course of cooking to help release the starch from the millet and to prevent sticking. Remove the millet from the heat when it’s soft and creamy. (For me, this only took about 40 minutes.) Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Set the millet aside to rest, covered for 5 minutes.
Lightly oil a 6 to 8 cup baking dish. Pour the polenta into the baking dish, smoothing the top with a spatula (like you would if you were putting brownie mix into a baking pan). Set aside to cool at room temperature, then refrigerate uncovered, until fully set, about 40 minutes. (I made these earlier in the day and just took them out of the fridge when I was ready to make dinner.)
Meanwhile, prepare the peppers and onions. In a wide, heavy sauté pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions, bell peppers, and ½ teaspoon salt. Raise the heat and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring to prevent browning. Add the thyme, wine, and vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, until the peppers are meltingly tender. Uncover, raise heat and reduce the pan juices until they form a syrup that covers the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Slice the polenta onto a cutting board and slice into ½-inch thick pieces. In a heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Fry the slices for 5 to 7 minutes per side, until crisp. This might take a couple of batches.
Serve the polenta topped with smothered peppers and onions.
As you can see from the recipe, this meal is a bit of a process but it was perfect for putting together on a Sunday afternoon. These cakes were a different way of using gluten-free grains and filled up our bellies. We had lots of leftovers so I just reheated them throughout the week for lunch. I would sprinkle them with a little parmesan cheese when I reheated the cakes. You can also save some to fry later to make them crunchy and fresh when you serve them.
I would have taken more photos of the final product but right after I took this one, I spilled my glass of red wine all over our white carpet, breaking the glass. Sadly, my lack of depth perception put an end to the photo session, but David was able to salvage our carpet.