Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Creamy Polenta with Tempeh "Bacon" and Greens

Favorite Winter Breakfast: Creamy Polenta with 
Tempeh "Bacon" and Sauteed Greens.
Beautiful home-grown bright lights chard.
 New England winters can be pretty harsh. Sometimes, in the endless dark and cold,  faith waivers a bit and even the most seasoned of New Englanders can begin to question whether spring will ever roll around again. We learn to grow what will survive in these dark times- hearty, healthy, relatively indestrucable things. 

Chard is one of those things. It can survive frigid temps, actually tastes better after a frost, and grows very well in containers- perfect for us city folk. It may seem like a small thing, but being able to walk out on to your porch and grab a handful of fresh greens makes the long hard winter seem just a bit more bearable. I'm a big proponent of greens for breakfast year-round, but there is something particular soul-nourishing about greens in the winter. If you don't grow them yourselves greens like chard, arugula, and kale are available from your local farmers through the winter months.

Now doesn't that look delicious?

After years of tinkering, this particular combination has become one of my no-fail breakfasts. Its warm, nourishing, perfectly savory, relatively inexpensive to prepare, and incorporates staples I always have on hand- like polenta and tempeh- with whatever greens are available. 

I always have polenta in the pantry- its inexpensive and quite versatile. As for brands, I can not recommend Bob's Red Mill highly enough. I've tried many other brands over the years and theirs is superior in every way- perfect texture, no clumping, and well priced. I like to add about 1/4 cup more water than the recipe calls for to ensure the polenta remains creamy, rather than setting up. I also add a tablespoon or so of non-dairy butter. Earth Balance is my go-to.


Creamy Polenta, Tempeh "Bacon" and Sauteed Seasonal Greens

1 cup of Bob's Red Mill Polenta
3 1/4 cups + a splash of water
1 Tbsp Earth Balance
pinch of salt
1 package of whole grain (unseasoned) tempeh
cut into 1/4" strips
1 Tbsp + a splash of tamari or soy sauce
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
approx. 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (use the cheap kind)
One bunch of greens (chard, kale, arugula) washed and chopped
1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)

Preparing the polenta:In a medium saucepan with lid bring the 3 1/4 cups of water, pinch of salt, and 1 Tbsp butter to a boil.
Slowly pour in 1 cup of polenta while gently stirring to prevent clumping, 
reduce heat to medium-low.
Place pot lid loosely on, just enough to prevent splatter.
The polenta will cook in 15-20 minutes, stir every few minutes.

While the polenta cooks: 

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil, 1 Tbsp of tamari and the apple cider vinegar in a large saute pan over med. heat.
Lay tempeh strips in the pan, making sure they are submerged in the liquid.
Cook for about 6 minutes on each side. 
Once the liquid reduces the tempeh will begin to brown and crisp up.
You can brown it as much or as little as you want from this point forward.
I prefer mine quite browned and crispy, 
sometimes I even add a bit more olive oil to the pan and fry it longer.

Once the tempeh is cooked:

Remove pan from the heat, take tempeh out and place on plate.
Deglaze the saute pan with a splash of apple cider vinegar.
Add a splash of tamari, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Return pan to medium heat and add your chopped greens, drizzle a small amount of water over the top and stir. 
At this point you can place the top on the pan to give them a bit of a steam, or you can cook uncovered.
I generally only cook mine for a minute or two, covering very briefly, 
keeping them nicely crisp and bright.

Once the greens are cooked:

Place a scoop of polenta in a bowl.
Crumble some of your tempeh "bacon" over the top, spoon in some greens and 
drizzle with a bit of the remaining cooking liquid.

If you're feeling especially decadent you can add a bit more Earth Balance and even drizzle a little maple syrup over the top. 

I won't hesitate to highly recommend doing both.

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