Friday, October 02, 2009

Corn, Beans, and Squash

Taking inspiration from the indigenous peoples, I went for the healthy combination of corn, beans and squash. Polenta, black beans and pumpkin worked nicely together and were adaptable to re-heating and varying schedules.

I wanted the beans to compliment the pumpkin which I roasted in olive oil, thyme and rosemary. Instead of making cumin-coriander heavy refried beans, I used a generous amount of mild chili powder and paprika.

This dinner truly was put together from pantry staples, and a few stray vegetables. Mr. Eat The Blog always looks at me odd when I stock up on bargain tins of chili beans, but they do come in handy. Here's a hint-those tins of chili beans in sauce? They're disgusting. That's OK. They frequently go on sale for .20 cents a tin. Dump them into a strainer, rinse them, soak them in water for ten minutes and rinse again, and you have regular old pinto beans with a faint chili flavour. Congratulations, you just saved .50 cents a tin. You can rinse and soak beans, right?

The polenta can be made well ahead and then fried right before serving. It keeps well, tightly wrapped in the fridge for several days.

For the Polenta (aka "Mush")

6 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups polenta (corn grits, not corn meal)
3 tablespoons butter

Bring water to a boil. Stir in polenta slowly, reduce to simmer and cook, stirring frequently until thickened-about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Pour into an oiled or buttered rectangular dish and let set 10 minutes. Unmould onto a baking sheet and let cool. Chill until needed.

For the Pumpkin:

1 small sugar pumpkin, cut into several pieces
about 5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil. Scatter salt and pepper and herbs.

Bake 15 minutes, then turn pieces, spreading oil around as you do. Continue baking until soft and carmelised looking.

For the beans:

1 tin chili beans in sauce, rinsed, soaked in water and rinsed again
1 tin black beans, rinsed
A glug of olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons mild chili powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika

In a large pot, heat the oil and cook the pepper, onion, garlic and bay leaves until onions are soft. Add the chili powder and paprika and stir well. Cook a few minutes longer. Add beans and mix well. Add enough water to cover beans and increase heat to a steady, but not hard boil. Cook until reduced, stirring occasionally so it does not stick. Do this a total of three times. Remove bay leaves before serving (which i shouldn't have to tell you, but gee whiz, just when I start thinking something is obvious I get a search for "Can you eat the tamale corn husk?" and then I'm reminded that Frank Zappa was right-"People is dumb all over." So yeah, remove the bay leaves.

Serve hot over fried polenta with roasted pumpkin.

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