Saturday, March 01, 2008

Polenta with Marinated Tofu and Red Chard

This was inspired by one of the meals I had at Cafe Blossom in New York. This was the quick version though, with prepared polenta and marinara sauce, plus leftover red pepper sauce from last post. If you want to make it more fancy-like, make your own polenta and marinara, and add some more vegetables - like maybe asparagus or mushrooms or snow peas... or all of the above.

For this version I sliced a tube of polenta and fried it in a little olive oil. That went in the center of some marinara, then I added marinated baked tofu (VwaV recipe) and red chard that I cooked with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and probably a couple other things I can't remember now. Some of the red pepper sauce went on top and that was it - quite a delicious and filling dinner.

I thought I'd also give an update on my vanilla extract project that I mentioned a several weeks ago. I ended up buying a mix of Tahitian and Bourbon vanilla beans here. I got about 50 beans and spent about 20 bucks. For another 5 bucks I got a cheap 750 ml bottle of vodka. To start out with, I split about 5 whole beans and put them in a quart jar with the vodka (750 ml is a little less than a quart so I topped it off with water - which I figured is reasonable because vanilla extract is generally around 35% alcohol and the straight vodka is 40%). Since then we've been using the vanilla beans in various baked goods (and in vanilla pudding), and adding the spent beans to the jar. I think we'll need to do this for a little while longer before we have really good extract, but already it's getting nice and dark and smelling less like alcohol and more like vanilla. (I added some agave to the jar too since I read that a sweetener is supposed to cut some of the alcohol smell.) The cheapest I've seen vanilla extract recently is 5 bucks for a 4 oz. bottle and when this is all said and done we'll have 32 oz. for 25 bucks (that's a little over 3 bucks per 4 oz. for those of you who have problems with math). Plus we've got a big bag of vanilla beans to use in our baking. In fact, if you just wanted to make extract you could easily use half the amount of vanilla beans we did and get a quart for $15. So if you can swing the up-front cost, go make some vanilla extract. It's fun and delicious!

8 comments:

April said...

I love the vanilla extract idea! I just ordered the beans! Thanks for the link!

Romina said...

Mmm. Who could deny yummy looking polenta like that??

DJ said...

The polenta looks delicious, and may I suggest, once it's done, mixing your vanilla vodka with fizzy lemonade/7up for the closest thing to alcoholic cream soda you're ever going to taste!

Chris said...

excellent idea dj ;-)

Bianca said...

Wow. I love make-it-yourself projects like that. I'm growing my own bean sprouts right now in a jar, and it's nice to have the hands-on project of rinsing them twice a day. When they're done growing, my salad will taste so much better knowing that I made them myself.

I'm certain you'll feel the same about your vanilla extract. That's a great idea.

Amy said...

I love Blossom restaurant. They're so innovative.

Let us know how the vanilla turns out. What a fun project!

Urban Vegan said...

That looks absolutely delicious--so colorful.

I always make my own vanilla--so much stronger than store bought. And cheaper.

Chris said...

We did some sprout growing many years ago bianca - your comment makes me think we should start doing it again.

Thanks amy & urban vegan! I had no idea about making vanilla extract until very recently. What prompted me to get started was seeing it in a mainstream grocery store for over $6 for a 2 oz. bottle. I finally found it somewhere else for a lot less but homemade is better still.