Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mexican Polenta Pancakes with Avocado & Tomato Filling

This recipe was also adapted from 'The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook,' but we added a few of our own ingredients to spice it up.

Total cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 4-6

Polenta Pancake:
1/3 cup yellow polenta (cornmeal)*
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup whole milk with splash of white vinegar)
2 eggs
30g (1 oz) butter, melted
vegetable oil

Avocado Filling:
2 very ripe avocados**
6 spring onions, finely chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 can black beans
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or cheese of choice)
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
(optional) tabasco or chili sauce

1. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a bowl. Combine buttermilk, eggs and butter in a separate bowl and beat to combine. Add to the center of dry ingredients. Beat until liquid is incorporated and batter is completely free of lumps. Set aside and cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for roughly 20 minutes.

2. Avocado Filling: Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the seed. Scoop the flesh in a bowl and mash well with a fork. Add the spring onions, tomatoes, jalapeno, lemon juice and (optional) chili sauce.

3. Grease a small frying pan or pancake griddle with oil or butter. When hot, pour in enough batter to thinly cover the base of the pan (or to about the size of a tortilla). Cook over medium heat until the underside is golden. Turn pancake over and cook the other side. Transfer to a plate and place in a low-heat oven to keep warm. Continue with the remaining batter, re-greasing the pan when necessary.

4. When all of the pancakes are made, immediately top with cheese so it gets melty and yummy. Spread a layer of black beans on one half of the pancake and top with avocado filling. Fold the other half over and sprinkle more cheese, garnish with extra spring onion, or top with fresh ground pepper.

Notes & Variations
This recipe gets another 5 stars. After eating these polenta pancakes (courtesy of Kevin), I don't think we'll ever go back to store-bought tortillas. They were so fresh and delicious, and the subtle sweetness balanced the spice from the jalapeno and chili sauce.

The recipe calls for the polenta to sit for roughly 20 minutes, however we found that it really made no significant difference.

For other variations, try adding other vegetables such as red or green pepper to the avocado filling, or try additionally topping with fresh lettuce or spinach. You can even add refried beans or rice to the filling for a more traditional taco.

Lastly, we found that this recipe only made five tortilla sized (7") pancakes. We ended up doubling the recipe and having a few leftover. They'll be great for an egg, cheese and spinach omelet for brekkie! Or delicious with some nutella and mixed berries!

* Polenta is a complex carbohydrate that fills you up while adding valuable vitamins and minerals to your diet without the fat. It has 40g of carbohydrates and only 1g of fat per 100g.

** Many people assume that Avocados are a fat and should be avoided. Actually, avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. While still best in moderation, they also act as a "nutrient booster" by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients.


Tagliatelle with Tomato and Walnut Sauce

This recipe was adapted from 'The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook'. It's an excellent cookbook full of simple, delicious vegetarian recipes - pictures included!

Total cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 4-6 (unless you find it as delicious as we did - then it only serves 2)

4 ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley*
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
500 g (1 lb) tagliatelle or pappardelle
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain the water and allow the tomatoes to cool. Peel the skin down and discard. Chop the flesh of the tomato into roughly 1/4 inch pieces.

2. Heat half the oil in a large heavy-based pan. Cook the onion for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring regularly. Add the tomatoes, parsley, red wine vinegar and wine. Reduce the heat and simmer for roughly 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Five minutes before the sauce is cooked, heat the remaining oil in a medium frying pan and add the walnuts. Stir over low heat for 5 minutes.

4. While the sauce is cooking, boil water for the pasta and cook until just tender. Drain and return to pan. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve the pasta and the sauce topped with walnuts and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese

Notes & Variations
The recipe originally calls for 1 celery stick, finely chopped, and 1 medium carrot, grated. We chose to omit these ingredients.
You can also choose to substitute canned, store-bought pasta sauce in place of the ripe tomatoes to allow a much quicker sauce cooking time if you're in a rush - although you'll sacrifice flavor and nutrients. In our recipe, we used 2 ripe tomatoes and 1 & 1/4 cups of pasta sauce. If you choose this option, the sauce only needs to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Nora and I give this recipe 5 stars. It was absolutely delicious and our plates looked just like the picture from the book. The roasted walnuts have a lot of flavor, and give this dish a 'meaty' taste and texture. It was super easy to make! Try adding other vegetables to the sauce for even more variations.

*Fresh Parsley is a vegetarian hero food. It contains 200mg of calcium and 9.4mg of Iron per 100g, and contains significant amounts of the nutrients which many vegetarian diets lack. Be generous with the parsley in this recipe. Your body and your taste buds won't regret it!