Sunday, July 31, 2011

To cheat or not the cheat? - Polenta Bruschetta


Do you find that you go nuts on certain vegetables and fruits when they're in season? I do. In the Spring it's all about the asparagus. In the Fall I'm making apple-everything. And the Summer? The bountiful Summer is a very happy time for me, but I find I can only truly fall in love with a tomato during the height of summer tomato season, so they hold a special place in my heart during this time. This is especially true when my basil plants are gigantic and just begging to be used in every dish possible. Even desserts!

It's still hot round these here parts, so I'm not in the mood to slave over a vat of garden vegetable marinara, tempting as the outcome might be. No. I want something easy to prepare and easy to eat. Something refreshing yet savory for a hot summer afternoon. So I think instead I'll completely contradict what I just said and make a vat of polenta, which is even more laborious than red sauce simply because you have to be standing right there at the hot stove for most of it, stirring your little heart out to make the perfect polenta. Good idea.

Lucky for me, and you, there is a cheat for this. This is not to say I don't recommend that you make your own polenta, because I do. But if you happen to be pressed for time, having a lazy day, or have a broken A/C like I do right now, you can always get a tube of pre-made polenta at most grocery stores and skip straight to the grilling, chopping, and, oh yes, chomping. Grilled Polenta Bruschetta, here we come:



POLENTA (makes enough for about 1 dozen cakes)

6 cups fresh water
2 cups polenta
1-2 tsp salt


In a large pot, bring water and salt to a boil. Stir in polenta slowly.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring a little more than occasionally for about 20 minutes or until your polenta is nice and thick. Seriously, a spoon basically should be able to stand up in the polenta.

Spread mixture in a lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking pan and refrigerate until firm.
Cut into squares.
Brush each square with olive oil and grill each side for 3-4 minutes until you see grill marks. Or you can bake them until they're lightly crispy. Then top with tomato mixture below.

If you're using store-bought pre made polenta, simply slice the tube into rounds, brush each with olive oil and grill each side for 3-4 minutes until you see grill marks. Or you can bake them until they're lightly crispy. Then top with tomato mixture below.


BRUSCHETTA TOPPING [makes enough for about 1 dozen]

2 organic tomatoes washed, seeded & diced
1/2 small onion, chopped small [red or white works]
8 leaves of backyard basil, chiffonade
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
fresh cracked pepper

Remove core & seeds from washed tomatoes and dice. Sprinkle salt over tomatoes and let sit 15 minutes to a half hour. Meanwhile you can do all the rest of your slicing and dicing.

Add the chopped onion, garlic, and basil to the salted tomatoes and stir. Drizzle the olive oil over the topping mixture and mix it in.

Spoon the mixture onto your polenta cakes and finish up with a bit of fresh cracked pepper on top of each one. Devour! You probably won't have a problem getting your friends to help you eat all this, trust me, but if you do have extra polenta and topping around, they can be saved in the refrigerator separately. Assemble when you're ready to eat.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Heatwave, you say? Popsicles, we say!

It's been hot in NYC. I mean really hot. OK, maybe not Texas hot and I'm sure it was hotter in Arizona last week, but, and say this in your best inner Fran Drescher voice, "that's a dry heat!" So you're having guests over, your A/C goes kaput, the beach is just too crowded, and hauling a kiddie pool and 100 gallons of water up to the roof of your buddy's 6-floor walk-up isn't an option, what do you do to cool off? Make popsicles, of course! And we're not talking colored tubes of sugar-water here, though those bring back a lot of fond memories of Summers of Yore. We're talking real, satisfying, flavorful, healthful (gasp!) grown-up pops. We got together last weekend and had a pop making party, complete with very willing taste-testers. We're sharing our three favorites below: Coconut, Basil & Lime, Watermelon Prosecco With a Cucumber & Lime Rind, and Samoa. That's right, Samoa. On a stick. It's like dunking the frozen cookie in a glass of milk without having to wait for Girl Scout cookie season. Oh yeah. But I digress. Let's check out some recipes:


[makes 8]


- 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk (you can use tetra pack style coconut milks like Silk brand but it's thinner in texture & usually has added sugar)
- 1/4 cup [4 tbsp] sugar or sweetener of choice such as agave or brown rice syrup
- 5 biggish leaves of fresh backyard basil
- juice of 1 lime including pulp (you can add the zest, too, if you want the lime to come to the forefront of the pop more)
- 1/2 cup of coconut water or pure filtered water



First we warmed the coconut milk, sugar, and basil in a cute little pot to infuse the milk with the herb's flavor and integrate the sugar. If you don't want to turn the stove on and wash an extra pot, you could probably get away with skipping straight to the next step: Blend your coconut milk, sugar, and basil in a blender until basil is shredded and sugar is incorporated.

Add your lime juice, pulp, and zest (if using) and give it a whir again. Then add the coconut water or water before giving it a final mix.

Pour into molds & freeze. We found that using a spouted Pyrex measuring cup or a funnel helps getting all these pops into their molds neatly.


[makes 8]



- 2 cups 1" cubed watermelon (make sure there are no black seeds)
- 1 tbsp sugar / agave / brown rice syrup / honey / sweetener of choice (maple syrup is not recommended here)
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice (about half a lime, juiced)
- 1/2 tsp lime zest (a little more than half a lime, zested)
- 1/2 cup prosecco (we used Palmer sparkling white. It's local from the North Fork vineyards and delightful!)



Blend all ingredients in a blender. Fill popsicle molds 3/4 of the way and freeze for at least an hour. You want this just frozen enough to hold another layer on top of it, but not so frozen, you can't get a stick through it.

CUCUMBER / LIME "RIND" (makes a great pop on its own, too! Double the recipe for that.)

- 1 cucumber peeled & seeded
- 1 tbsp sugar / agave / brown rice syrup / honey / sweetener of choice (maple syrup is not recommended here)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tsp fresh lime juice

Blend all ingredients in a blender until all the cucumber is pureed. Fill the remaining 1/4 of pop mold over the frozen watermelon portion, stick the pop sticks in, and freeze for a couple more hours until solid.

We found that using a spouted Pyrex measuring cup or a funnel helps
getting all these pops into their molds.


[makes 4]

- 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 3/4 cups coconut milk
- 1/4 cup organic finely shredded unsweetened coconut


Melt the chocolate & oil in double boiler or a bowl placed over a small pot of boiling water just until it melts. Turn off the heat & whisk in the coconut milk. Mix in coconut shreds until they are incorporated evenly throughout. Make sure the mixture is cool before pouring it into your colds to freeze. These need a little more freezing time than the other two pops we made.

We found these to be extra thick & rich like fudgecicles, if you want a thinner pop you can dilute it with more coconut milk.

VARIATIONS: use the first 3 ingredients (or swap coconut milk for almond milk) and add:
- curry (yes really!)
- cinnamon & hot pepper for a South American twist
- almond extract & crushed almonds
- dried pitted cherries


Why, hello!

Welcome, dear readers!

This first post is where we tell you the who, what, when, where, why, and how of complicatarianism &c. Our core contributors are Hope, Jessica, and Micol. We each began our journey under a different label - a vegan, a vegetarian, and a pescatarian - and each began to notice that, despite making what we thought of as healthy choices, what we were doing wasn't cutting it. We were each feeling a bit run-down, catching colds easily, or experiencing other mysterious health issues one after another. After a few unsuccessful experimental attempts at throwing in a bit of gluten-free or dairy-free or fat-free or high raw or other-buzzword weeks into our current diets to no avail, it was high time to stop, focus, and make our health a priority starting from the ground up by reassessing our entire diets... via baby steps.

Evidence that the SAD [Standard American Diet] tends to have a detrimental effect on good health is plentiful, as are resources regarding the benefits of a plant-based diet. There's an especially informative and easy to digest article on YumUniverse that is definitely worth checking out - The Big Crash Course: Why Eat a Plant-Based Diet? Honestly, why not give eating simply and healthfully a try? Using as many whole food ingredients as possible and cutting out "the bad stuff"? Oh, right... taste! If there's something the three of us definitely love it is good food! So there's a label we can share: "foodies". Beyond that, it gets complicated. Different things work for different people, and so when Jes coined the very appropriate term "complicatarian" it stuck! But guess what? The shocker is whole foods taste amazing. Sure they take a little more forethought than pulling up to a drive-thru window but it's worth it. And that's what this blog is all about.

It's the last week of July and we began our journey just in the first week of June, so we are still beginners. Join us as we share our experiences, recipes, informative links from other like-minded bloggers, and fun things happening around town. Why label? Just enjoy.