25 December 2009

This Week in My Kitchen, Part 1: Spanakopita, Polenta with Root Vegetable Ragout, Mango Curry Potato Dosa, Creamy Vegan Potato Soup

This is a long overdue post, which should be more accurately titled "This Month in My Kitchen". December, of course, is prime cooking and baking season, and it was no different in my kitchen this year. I got to bake cookies with some girlfriends, finally successfully tackle polenta, make a vegan pecan pie for the first time, and probably gain 5 pounds!

Kirk's favourite food of all time is spinach pie, so I attempted to make him some this month. It was a partially successful attempt, but I don't have much experience with phyllo pastry (in fact, I spelled it "filo" on my grocery list), and I went a little to light on the layers. Next time will better. I used two packages of frozen chopped spinach, one bag of fresh spinach, lots of garlic, some tofu (cubed really small) and a few other seasonings for the filling, and it was fantastic! I served it with home made hummous, greek salad and some multigrain flax pitas. Yum!

Polenta with Root Vegetable Ragout
My one attempt at making polenta several years ago was a failure (wrong consistency, wrong texture, next-to-no flavour). I avoided another attempt for years, afraid again of dismal failure, but after a fantastic meal at Locus recently, I was spurred on to try again. This time I did my research, reading recipes, blog posts and diatribes about polenta, grits, and all things cornmeal. People are very passionate about polenta, it seems. I like a semi-firm polenta, and I ended up choosing this recipe to try. It came out great! Creamy but firm, lots of savoury flavour, perfect. I made a quick root vegetable ragout to serve with it, and Kirk and I both enjoyed it for dinner and for lunch the next day. I will be making polenta more often.

Mango Curry Potato Dosa
Kirk and I had Indian take out last week, and we ordered a potato masala dosa, something neither of us had ever eaten before. I loved it! It was like a big bready crepe filled with curried potatoes - what's not to love? I thought I should learn to make this myself - it's can't be that hard. Ha! I found this recipe, and learned that it takes two days just to prepare the batter, which is made from a very particular kind of lentil. Luckily, Famous Foods, a fantastic little grocery a few blocks from my house, carries the lentils, so I made my attempt. Not so great. Edible, but not nearly so yummy as the one from the take out. At least I tried. Maybe I'll just stick with crepes for now. On the bright side, the filling (potatoes and veggies with mango curry sauce), was really good.

Creamy Vegan Potato Soup
As many of you know, I am a big lover of soup. I could eat soup every day and be happy. So when we bought a ten pound bag of russet potatoes on sale this week, I saw the perfect opportunity to make creamy potato soup. I sweated an onion and some garlic, then I sliced up six potatoes with my mandolin slicer and boiled them in salted water with the onion and garlic and some rubbed sage in just enough water to cover. Once they were soft I drained a bit of the water and pureed it with my hand blender. I added a bit of soy milk and margarine and went to town. Heavenly!

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