Brunch. Vegan Style.

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As a vegetarian, pardon me, as a health conscious vegetarian (not to confuse me with a junk food vegetarian) I am continuously disappointed with brunch options. For this reason alone I rarely ever go out to brunch unless I know my options are far greater than that which I can whip up myself. For instance: rabbit food (mesclun greens with a couple cherry tomatoes and a possible slice or two of cucumber), a generous bowl of granola (with greek yogurt, milk or some other dairy option - so that's a no for vegans) or some type of cheesy concoction on toast...or fries. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a nice bowl of greens and crunchy bowl of granola, but sometimes I just want a little more to choose from, is that too much to ask? Surprisingly enough even oatmeal is rarely on a brunch menu these days. And c'mon, who doesn't love a warm bowl of oatmeal with a spoonful of brown sugar with fresh berries and pecans?

That being said, I decided to throw together a simple, delicious brunch dish that vegans and vegetarians can delite in. I promise the carnivores inviting themselves over for brunch will enjoy this as well, they won't even realize it's vegan so shhhh...

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Polenta.* (cue choir of angels). This guy has a legacy dating back to the 1700's and was made popular in Italy. Not only is it one of the best foods to supply long-lasting energy but it cooks up in a mere 30 minutes. It can be creamy or crispy. It plays well with all flavors, polenta does not discriminate. It's perfect. As many of you may know polenta is in fact corn meal. Ah, yes, I know, we Americans get plenty of corn in our diets (ehem...we actually over dose of the stuff) so lets take a moment to remember my favorite word: "moderation." With today's corn being almost entirely genetically modified, organically sourced polenta is the only way to go. Oh, and it's rich in vitamins A and C. Bonus!

Fennel. I am in love with this plant. This oddly shaped, hardy, anise flavored bulb - or fruit - is delicious raw, roasted, seared, sautéed, and so on. Another excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and dietary fiber. Raw fennel is a great way to ease a stomach ache and helps prevent the formation of gas in the intestinal tract.

Kale. You will soon realize that I have a slight obsession with kale mostly because of the fact that it's so incredibly good for you but also because it's just simply delicious.  I will continue to engrave in your memory how this guy is rich in vitamins B6, K, A and C. Lets also not forget that it's a great source of minerals copper, potassium and iron. Some people don't play favorites, but when it comes to veggies, kale is mine.

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ingredients. (enough for two)
1 cup cooked polenta*
1/2 bunch kale, cleaned and thinly chopped (do not discard that delicious stem!)
1 small fennel bulb, cleaned, outer most layers discarded, sliced into 1/4" thick slices
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, sliced
juice of half a lemon
fennel fronds for garnish (the 'hairy' guys on the fennel antennas)
pinch of chili flake (depending on if you like it spicy or not)
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to taste


create.
--in a small skillet over medium heat add your garlic and shallot and saute until soft, 2-3 minutes. add kale, a pinch of salt, chili flake (optional), and lemon juice. saute until wilted, 2-3 minutes.

--meanwhile in a small cast iron pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of oil. add fennel, season with salt and pepper and pan sear in batches.

--to assemble: split the kale between two plates. top with fennel and then with polenta. garnish with fresh cracked pepper and fennel fronds.

*note: cooking polenta.
Typically it is a 1:3 ratio of polenta to water (i.e. 1 cup of polenta to 3 cups of water). I always have another pot of simmering water on side burner in case the polenta needs some thinning out, which it always does...
    --bring water to a boil, add 1 tsp sea salt
    --lower to a simmer and slowly whisk in polenta
    --switch to a wooden spoon and stir often
    --cook for approximately 25 minutes, when mixture thickens and polenta is tender
    --use your best judgement to add water when polenta seems to get too thick. typically i can add around up to two cups of water by the time the polenta has finished cooking.
    --season to taste with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. at this point feel free to add a knob or two of butter and fresh parm unless of course you are trying to keep it a vegan dish then skip this step.


...lastly take a second to pat yourself on the back, maybe give yourself a little round of applause (have whoever you're cooking for join in, too) and enjoy your vegan, homemade brunch for two.

everything tastes better homemade,

-M.