Thursday, 28 February 2013

Parmesan Polenta Cakes from Rebar Modern Food, Vancouver Island, Canada

I love making these polenta cakes - I know, I know, you can buy polenta already pressed in the store. But this tastes so much better, and is much cheaper and fresher. My favourite is a polenta cake topped with sauteed mushrooms, sundried tomato and swiss cheese, grilled. Yum! These are great as a bread or meat substitute.

You may have heard me mention Rebar before. It is one of my favourite restaurants in the world, on Vancouver Island, Canada. One of those rare vegetarian/vegan restaurants where you don't miss the meat (although they do have very minimal seafood on the menu), they serve up healthy yet complex and creative dishes such as Yam & Pepita Quesadilla with chipotle-honey salsa and cilantro creme fraiche ($9). Focusing on local and fresh produce, you won't find anything better in downtown Victoria for a gourmet breakfast.

Rebar Modern Food on UrbanspoonWe were only in Victoria, Canada for one night, and luckily enough stumbled upon Rebar for breakfast before we headed back to Seattle on the ferry. We had a delicious breakfast that was filling enough to satisfy our always raging appetites, yet light and fresh enough to not cause the inevitable carb-coma that generally follows restaurant brunches. I had their Migas Southwest Scramble ($13), a scrambled egg breakfast packed with tortilla strips and the three non-negotiable Southwest C's: chiles, cilantro and cheese.

It made such an impact, we added one of their recipe books onto the cheque, and this book is what started my now ridiculous cookbook obsession. To give you an idea: once a month I have to flip the shelves in my sturdy wooden bookcase to counteract slow and dangerous sagging...

This recipe comes from their cookbook Rebar Modern Food Cookbook by Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz. It was their book that really started me on this whole food journey with fig and walnut. I thought it would be ok to share this recipe with you as it is just a basic polenta recipe, but I encourage you all to purchase this wonderful cookbook. You can purchase it cheaply on Amazon, just click the link below.

Polenta Cakes
from Rebar Modern Food Cookbook

4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 cup polenta (cornmeal)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp butter
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat the salt and water in a large pot. Pour the cornmeal into the hot water, whisking to make sure the cornmeal doesn't lump together. Turn the heat down and stir for about 15 minutes with a wooden spoon until thickened.

Stir in the butter and cheese and spread it out on a large, oiled baking pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and let the polenta harden overnight in the refrigerator (it may be ready after a few hours if you need it today!).

Using a rubber spatula, lever the polenta out at the sides to make sure it has not stuck. Cut whatever shapes you like, I like to cut them in to rectangles to use as 'toast'. You could use cookie cutters to do interesting shapes!

In a cast iron griddle pan, heat a little oil and grill the polenta cakes on both sides until lightly charred.

Then proceed to use however you like - as a meat substitute you could use vegetarian beef stock to make the polenta and top with mushroom sauce! Or these could be topped with anything and cubed for tasty appetizers, or used as a gluten free replacement for bread (to make a sweet version, simply remove the parmesan cheese, then you can spread with jam or honey as you please!)