I'm finally getting into the holiday spirit. Since I'm really trying to avoid sugar, I'm trying to stay away from making a lot of holiday cookies for gifts because they're just too tempting! But since those cookie cutters are just sitting there waiting to be used, I decided to go ahead and make a fun main course polenta dish using my gingermen cookie cutters. This is fun to have for the kids! It's gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan, too.
HOLIDAY POLENTA MEN WITH KALE PESTO AND TEMPEH TOMATO SAUCE
Soaking the cornmeal will shorten the cooking time. Don't be afraid to season the polenta with fresh or dried herbs. Instead of the ginger men cookie cutters, use other holiday cookie cutters. I also tried a few stars and candy canes that came out beautifully.
When using the kale pesto to decorate, I found it easier to control it by putting a little pesto on a knife and then adding it to the polenta. First I tried putting it in a pastry bag to decorate, but the kale was clumpy and the oil just separated from the kale and made a mess.
Serve on a bed of tempeh tomato sauce.
1 cup organic nonGMO stone ground cornmeal
4 cups water
2 teaspoons sea salt
Leaves from 1 sprig thyme
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing on polenta
Sea salt and pepper
Soak the cornmeal in the water for an hour.
Bring to a boil. Add salt.
With a whisk, slowly drizzle in the cornmeal. Continue whisking for about 3 minutes so the cornmeal doesn't clump. Add the salt, thyme and garlic. Partially cover the pot, and let the polenta simmer. After 10 minutes, remove the lid and stir with a wooden spoon. Repeat until the polenta is cooked, about 20 minutes.
When the polenta is finished cooking, drizzle in a tablespoon of olive oil. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour polenta on to a sheet tray. It should be at least ½ inch high. Smooth the top. Cool until firm in the refrigerator, at least 30 minutes.
Using a ginger man cookie cooker, cut out little men. Save the scraps for another meal.
Brush the top with olive oil. Arrange polenta, oiled side down, on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the top of polenta with oil. Broil until heated through and lightly browned. Alternatively, you can grill them on a stove top grill pan.
When they're cooled, add the kale pesto buttons with a knife or spoon. You can also try eyes, mittens or any other decorations.
Serve on the tempeh tomato sauce.
I like kale pesto because it has a strong flavor. Since the polenta and the tempeh tomato sauce are a bit mild, the pesto gives the dish a surprising burst of flavor. Save the extra pesto for pasta, rice or as a spread on a sandwich. It's also delicious on a baked potato.
1 bunch kale, (about 2 cups)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup roasted walnuts or pine nuts
1 tablespoon white miso (for a vegan version)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Destem the kale. Rinse and roughly chop.
Boil a pot of water and blanch for 2 minutes.
Prepare a bowl with ice water.
Remove the kale from the water and shock in the ice water. When it's cooled, wring out the water from the kale.
Put the kale in a food processor with the garlic, nuts, and miso and blend until smooth.
Add the lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
TEMPEH TOMATO SAUCE
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, stay away from the three grain variety because it contains barley.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups
1/2 package organic tempeh, chopped with a hand grater
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
½ teaspoon oregano
1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped (Set juice aside).
In a saucepan, brown the tempeh in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
Remove from pan and add onion. Cook until translucent and soft, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute.
Add the oregano, red pepper flakes and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.
Cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When cooked, puree using an immersion blender.
Spoon on a plate and top with the polenta men and kale pesto.