On Monday evening, an intimate group of 12 UL grads met for a cooking class in my kitchen studio. It’s amazing what chemistry 12 virtual strangers can create! Coming together over a universally important topic – How to get a healthy meal on the table at the end of a busy day – the group was lively and the conversation slowed only to savor the three simple entrees, a salad and dessert.
The class started with nibbles: olives, almonds, cheese and crackers. The entrees came together easily from a well stocked refrigerator and pantry: Marinated and Seared Salmon, Black Bean and Corn Melange over Creamy Polenta w/Queso Fresco, and Chicken w/Lemon and Caper Sauce. We served the entrees with a colorful salad and finished with a super easy Everyday Cocoa Cake w/chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries.
I am going to focus on the vegetarian entree for today’s post. I wouldn’t be able to choose which of the entrees was my favorite, but this one is certainly the easiest, the most economical and most everything should be on our pantry shelves.
Black Bean and Corn Melange
2 Tbls olive oil or canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
1-2 cups fresh or frozen yellow corn kernels
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 – 1 chipotle pepper (canned and packed in adobo sauce), minced
1 1/2 cups diced canned tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes, diced
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup instant polenta
3 cups boiling water
2 tbls unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco (Cheddar or Colby cheese would make a nice alternative)
Fresh cilantro for garnish (or fresh Italian parsley)
Fresh salsa and avocado for garnish
Make the Bean Mixture:
Heat the oil in a wide saute pan. Cook the onion over medium heat until softened, about 5 – 8 minutes. Add the corn and heat gently, stirring to warm, but not ‘cook’ the corn. Add the peppers, garlic and seasonings. Heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring to keep the mixture from sticking while exposing the garlic and spices to the heat. Add the tomatoes and chipotle; heat to a bubble. Gently stir in the black beans and keep warm until the polenta is ready.
Cook the Polenta:
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, add 2 tsp salt. Whisk in the polenta, stirring constantly until the polenta comes to a boil. Drop the heat to a simmer and stir nearly constantly for about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter, cream and cheese until creamy (the cheese won’t completely melt). Add some cracked black pepper, if you like.
Serve the hot bean mixture over the polenta. Fresh salsa and chunks of avocado make a colorful garnish along with the fresh cilantro.