Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bella Crusted Tempeh, Asparagus, Creamy Polenta and Pickled Cherries

When making a mental note in the back of my head to make dinner that involved the least amount of oven as possible, I somehow created a dinner that used up all four burners AND the oven. A serious backfire on my part, but the end result made me regret only that my fan is not powerful enough.
Moving on, I have now come to the conclusion that you just cannot go wrong with pickling produce! These tart cherries mellowed just enough to work perfectly with this savory dish and tasted great with fresh asparagus and woody mushrooms.

Baby Bella Crusted Tempeh
4 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 small spanish onion, rough chop
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
12 oz tempeh, cut into thirds
2 tbl dijon mustard
3 tbl extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375.
Combine the mushrooms, onions, pepper and thyme in a food processor and pulse into very fine crumbs.
Season the tempeh on all sides with salt and pepper. Coat all sides of the tempeh with mustard and use your hands to pack a layer of the mushroom mix around each piece.
Saute in oil over medium-high heat until seared and golden brown on both sides. Transfer to the oven and allow to bake through for 15 more minutes. Season with salt while still hot.

Creamy Polenta
4 cups water
salt and pepper
1 cup polenta (not instant)
2 tbl extra virgin olive oil

Bring the water to a boil in a pot. Slowly stream in the polenta while whisking continuously to avoid clumps. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat, whisking every couple minutes for 20 minutes until soft and creamy. (Or check the cook time on the back of your package. I have noticed the cooking times really differentiate.) Once the polenta has cooked, add a glug of olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pickled Cherries
2 cups fresh cherries
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 dried bay leaves

Prick each cherry with a fork or toothpick so the pickling liquid can macerate each cherry.
Combine all of the remaining ingredients (except cherries) in a pot and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and pour over the cherries. Once cooled, remove the bay leaves then cover and chill.

1 head asparagus, ends trimmed
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Blanch and shock the asparagus and remove 6 stalks or so to the side. Combine those reserved stalks in a small blender with salt, pepper and enough oil to puree into a thin puree. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Quickly saute the bulk of the blanched asparagus in a tiny bit of oil just to crisp, then season to taste.

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