Vegetarian pumpkin polenta with salsa fresca.
The first gifts of Fall have arrived. Time to dig out the Crock Pot and your favorite flannel shirt. If you can find it, that is. It's got to be around here somewhere, right? You
used it wore it to death last year. Or was that the year before?
The harvest moon is playing tricks with your memory again. The crows outside in the oak trees caw like the crows in tomorrow's dream. Days turn into weeks and lunch turns into next month's breakfast. Hours spill through worm holes of time like so many episodes of Lost. And the Buddha imagines the universe. And gets it close to right.
We're talking atoms, people. Particles of teeny tiny specks of even tinier teenier fragments of a single point of something so small the naked eye perceives it as invisible. Yet the Buddha perceived this. In 528 BC.
I ponder this as I walk in a stream of brittle bronze oak leaves.
The succession of days that adds up to a life is only a blink. The moment when you started reading this sentence is already the past. You think about this stuff as you get older. When you squint into your future you see a shorter slope than the path that winds behind you. It can cause a slippery sense of vertigo. A tipping sideways melancholy that infuses every lost opportunity with meaning, bittersweet.
I remember a West Hollywood walk to the market past ninety-pound skateboarders and a gaggle of thin actors smoking outside the Lee Strasberg Institute. I think about the Russian speaking men with impossibly sad eyes brushing past me, their impeccably groomed wheat-blonde wives carrying shopping bags of kale. I smile at the memory of my brown-eyed neighbor sitting on his front wall listening to Miles Davis on a transistor radio.
Great music, I tell him, feeling myself altering my cadence to the beat. It's JAZZ, Baby! he shouts, laughing as I pass by. I feel his joy in my chest. And I know he is exactly right. This whole life thing? This whole circuitous method of survival called living?
It's jazz, Baby.
And you just gotta go with it.
Karina's Pumpkin Polenta Recipe
By Karina Allrich October 2010.I'm so glad Bob's Red Mill now has gluten-free polenta. The quality of their polenta is by far the best- in my humble goddess opinion. Stirring cooked pumpkin into the polenta as it cooks brings an autumn inspired depth of flavor and nourishment. Comfort food at its very best.
3 cups fresh water
Pinch of sea salt, to taste
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Polenta
1 14-oz. can organic pumpkin puree
2/3 cup coconut milk or soy milk
2-3 tablespoons vegan butter
1 tablespoon raw organic agave nectar, optional
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Heat the water in a deep saucepan until boiling and add a pinch of sea salt, to taste. Pour the polenta into the simmering water, stirring with a whisk as you pour. Continue to whisk for a minute or two as the polenta cooks and adjust the heat to medium-low heat, so that the mixture gently simmers but does not cook too quickly- you don't want to scorch it. Keep an eye on it and stir frequently to keep it from sticking.
When the polenta has absorbed most of the water, add in the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine. Add in the coconut milk, vegan butter, agave and nutmeg, and stir again. The polenta should be ready in roughly 20 to 30 minutes. It should be tender to the bite, not gritty. If it isn't soft enough for you, add more coconut milk and cook it a little longer.
Serve in soft mounds with a topping of salsa fresca (recipe follows) or more vegan butter and maple syrup.
Sprinkle with roasted shelled pumpkin seeds.
Makes four main dish servings, or six side dish servings.
If you enjoy cheese, this polenta would be delicious served with grated vegan cheese or fresh crumbled goat cheese.
Add protein to the plate with cooked black beans. Or add black beans to the salsa recipe below.
To make polenta ahead of time: cook till done and spread the warm polenta into a cake pan and cool. Cover and chill. Slice cooled polenta into wedges. Broil wedges brushed with olive oil till sizzling. Top with salsa or grated vegan cheese.
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Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa Fresca Recipe
Salsa fresca is so easy. Chop up your favorite fresh salsa ingredients as the polenta is cooking. Cover and chill. Let the flavors mingle and get happy. If you're using avocado (so good with pumpkin!) add it in just before serving, to keep it from turning dark.
Here's what I used for my salsa fresca.
1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper
1 Anaheim chile pepper
1 fresh lime
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
A drizzle of raw organic agave nectar
Sea salt, to taste
A handful of fresh chopped cilantro
1 small avocado
Remove the papery skins from the tomatillos and wash the stickiness off with produce soap and water. Roughly chop. Toss into a bowl.
Wash and halve the bell pepper; seed and chop one half. Add to the bowl.
Stem and clean the chile pepper; dice. Add it in.
Drizzle the mix with fresh squeezed lime juice, olive oil and agave nectar. Season with sea salt, to taste. Add in fresh chopped cilantro and stir to combine.
Cover and chill till serving.
Just before serving, peel and pit the avocado, dice it and add the avocado to the salsa.
Makes four servings.