polenta with tomatillo and avocado salsa, two ways

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Yesterday I bought some tomatillos at the farmer’s market. I’ve never cooked with them before, but I thought it would be fun to experiment with a new ingredient. I have had tomatillo sauces and salsas on occasion but I haven’t worked with them first hand. I started thinking about the different ingredients I had in my fridge and headed to my trusty recipe book: Google. I finally settled upon what turned out to be a Weight Watchers recipe: Mexican Poached Eggs Over Polenta with Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa.

Aside from desserts, I don’t think I could find many dishes that couldn’t be improved by putting a fried or poached egg on top. In fact, if I had to come up with a second choice for my blog title, it would probably be “Put An Egg On It.” This dish was great. I left out the tomatoes because I thought the tomatillos added enough tomato-like consistency and I didn’t have jalapeños on hand. I’ll have to pick some up this weekend at the farmer’s market. I liked the sweet and sour tartness of the tomatillos, the creaminess of the avocado and polenta, the kick from the chili powder and red onion, and the runny yolk of the poached egg melded everything together really well. It was filling and satisfying and one I would happily pay money for at my favorite restaurants.

Tonight I decided to change the recipe a little bit since I had meat at lunch this afternoon. As part of the Vegan Before 6 diet, I need to eat vegan for two meals a day so I decided to substitute tofu for the poached egg. I had about a half-sized portion of the salsa left over from last night, so I cut up a peach and threw that in with the avocado and tomatillos. I also thought I’d kick it up a notch and added cayenne pepper and smoked paprika to the dusting on the polenta and tofu. For the sake of presentation, I cut the tofu into a circle the same size as my polenta rounds and stacked it polenta-tofu-polenta, but you can do it however you want.

Tofu will never replace eggs permanently for me, but this dish was still quite good. The addition of the peaches counteracted the extra kick from the cayenne and I think will make a regular appearance in this salsa whenever I make it. I left my tofu to drain while I was out for a couple of hours, thinking it would save me time when I go home, but I think I ended up drying it out a bit too much. I might also try it with firm instead of extra-firm tofu next time to see if it will stay creamier like the polenta. I still really enjoyed it despite the tofu being a bit dry.

The recipe is below with the notes for making it vegan.

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mexican poached egg over polenta with tomatillo-avocado salsa

ingredients

  • 1 tsp white vinegar (for poaching the egg)
  • 1 egg (or a 1/2-inch thick slice of firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into a circle the same size as the polenta)
  • a pinch of chili powder
  • a pinch of garlic powder
  • a pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • a pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1/2- to 1-inch thick slice of polenta from a prepared polenta log
  • 3-4 chopped tomatillos, boiled until soft (about 2-3 minutes)
  • 1/4 of a red onion, diced
  • 1 medium avocado, diced
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 medium peach, chopped (optional)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

To poach the egg, fill a small saucepan half way up with water and place over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil and add the vinegar. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack the egg into a small dish or cup and gently slide the egg into the simmering water. Cook until the egg white has set, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel and cover to keep warm.

(If using tofu instead of an egg: Fold up a paper towel in a square large enough for your tofu to sit on. Place the paper towel on a small plate. Set the tofu on top of the paper towel, and take another paper towel and place it on top of the tofu. Set another plate on top of this and put a heavy weight on top of the plate — I used a can of pumpkin purée. Let your tofu drain for 10-15 minutes. Then follow the directions for the polenta below with regards to spicing it and frying it. You can use more than one tofu round if you want to make your stacks taller.)

Take your slice of polenta and sprinkle one side with the chili powder and garlic powder. If desired, you can add cayenne, paprika, or any other spice of your choosing. Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add some olive oil. Cook polenta (and tofu) for 2-3 minutes on the non-spiced side. Flip over and dust the other side with spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes. The time will vary based on the thickness of your polenta (and tofu).

To make the salsa, combine the avocado, tomatillo, red onion, peach (optional) and cilantro in a bowl. Lightly coat with olive oil and lime juice, mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble, place your polenta round on a plate. Top with the poached egg and about 1 cup of the salsa. (I also splashed a bit of tabasco over the egg on a whim). Save any extra salsa as an accompaniment to your lunch or dinner the next day. (For the vegan option, stack your polenta and tofu rounds — I used two rounds of polenta and one round of tofu, but you could make it taller — start with polenta on the bottom and alternate with the tofu. Top with salsa and enjoy!)

Serves 1

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summer burger

Tonight’s dinner is once again brought to you by the farm fresh grab bag. A buffalo burger from Harvest Co-op, on top of caramelized onions and peach slices. Topped with a slice of Gouda cheese, avocado slices and cilantro. Surrounded by my homemade refrigerator pickles and fresh blackberries, drizzled with Worcestershire sauce and fresh lemon juice. Surprisingly delicious and summery!

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farm fresh summer pasta

Tonight’s dinner is brought to you by the farm fresh grab bag. Garlic scapes and onion from my co-op Harvest Co-op Beaver Falls; peaches, green tomatoes, and summer squash from the Beaver Farmer’s Market. Sautéed together with olive oil, red pepper flakes, cumin, and the juice of one lime. Served over pasta with grated pecorino Romano and a handful of fresh cilantro and basil from my garden.

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Not the usual pairings of ingredients, but quite tasty, nonetheless, and everything but the pasta and spices were locally grown! It would probably make more sense over quinoa or couscous, but the dish evolved as I was cooking, so there you have it.