23 January 2012

Spicy Polenta Cakes

Casually browsing my cupboard last night, I stumbled on a bag of polenta that I had forgotten about. I've never cooked, let alone eaten polenta before, but I do love corn. How can anyone not, really? Well, I remembered seeing a few recipes over the last couple years for something called polenta cakes, so I decided to make my own vegan version featuring some Daiya Pepperjack. It was a total experiment...I was skeptical that they would work. But, they did....at least, they did with some toppings. I made some homemade black bean and corn salsa and then cooked up some yummy spicy tvp. They were both mega awesome on the pan-fried polenta cakes. Even better? Putting both toppings on one cake, like this:

The polenta cakes take a little prep time, first cooking the polenta and cheese and then refrigerating for about an hour to firm up, then finally pan-frying the tasty cakes. I suppose you might be able to bake them, but I wanted them cooked up quick and crispy. I used a circle cookie cutter to cut them out, but you could use a glass or cut them in squares with a knife.  

This recipe makes about 12 three-inch circle cakes.

Making the cakes:
  • 1 cup dry quick-cooking polenta (if it doesn't say quick, you're in for a long time of whisking)
  • 1 1/2 cups veg broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water (or you could use more broth)
  • heaped 1/2 cup or a bit more Daiya Pepperjack
  • 2 TB nooch
  • salt and pepper to your liking
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • hot sauce (optional)
  1. Heat broth and water in a large pot over high heat until almost boiling. Add paprika, chili powder, a few dashes of hot sauce, and the garlic powder. Then, turn the heat to medium low and whisk in the polenta. 
  2. KEEP WHISKING until the polenta is very thick and creamy. You don't want any lumps. It will take about 5 minutes of nonstop whisking if you use the quick cook. I've read that the regular stuff can take up to 20 minutes of whisking. 
  3. Now, whisk in the cheese and nooch. Keep on stirring, kiddos, until the cheese is melted. Turn off the heat and remove from the burner. 
  4. Quickly line a 9x13 inch sheet pan (or a baking dish) with some plastic wrap and give it a spritz of cooking spray. Now, smear the polenta onto the baking plastic. Try to make it into an even layer, like so.
  5. Spritz the top with a little more spray, then cover the polenta with more plastic wrap and refrigerate for 40-60 minutes.The polenta will be quite firm. 
  6. Cut the polenta. Now, heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add some oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan), and ease a few cakes into the pan. Cook about 3-4 minutes, then very gently flip the cakes. Cook another few minutes, until each side is golden and a bit crisp. Sorry, I was busy...no pictures. Remove the cooked cakes and put them on a plate while you cook up the rest. 
  7. Top those bugger with some yummies. We used the spicy tvp and homemade salsa, but you could use bean and veggie chili, more cheese, whatever. Make it yours!
Here's my super simple salsa recipe:
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can corn, drained and rinsed (I prefer fresh, but it is winter here and no corn can be found)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/3 tsp chili powder
  • 1/3 cup diced bell pepper
  • salt
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 cup diced tomato (today was a mix of cherry tomato and roma)
  1. Mix everything together and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Spicy TVP recipe:
  • 1 cup dry tvp
  • about 1 1/4 cups veg broth (I didn't measure, but this seems about right)
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 TB taco seasoning powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup hot salsa
  • hot sauce
  • scant 1/4 tsp liquid smoke (optional, but recommended)
  1. Mix tvp, dry spices, onion and broth in a small pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed.
  2. Once the liquid is almost entirely absorbed, add the salsa, hot sauce and liquid smoke. Turn heat to low and let everything simmer together for at least 5 minutes, but probably a little longer to let the flavors merge. Done!


    1. WOWOWOWOW! I drooled at your pic earlier today but now I'm just straight up salivating! I love polenta and the idea of adding daiya pepperjack takes it over the top! I need to ask my local health food store to carry the pepperjack. they still only have cheddar and mozz. :(

      1. You should definitely ask them about it. My health food store didn't even know it existed. They, too, only had the mozz and cheddar, but the manager ordered it and had it in about a week later. She said she loves it and is going to keep it in stock. It's a little more pricey than WholeFoods, but my Whole Foods is 35 miles away, so I very rarely go there. Anyway, you should make these and let me know what you think!

    2. those look fantastic! What a perfect way to use up your polenta.

    3. These look really good , I have never eaten polenta either in my life.

    4. Oh my gosh, they look great! I don't make polenta often enough.