Cheesy Polenta, Black Beans, Garlic Spinach, and a Poached Egg

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This was a perfect Monday night meal, inspired by this post on the Kitchn.  I love how, despite the four multiple components to this meal (which totally goes against my propensity for one-pot dinners!), everything cooks in the right order and gives you time to prep the next thing while you leave the current one to boil/simmer/saute, and it really does come together perfectly at the end.

The real shining star that made this meal so healthy and delish was the black beans, which I subbed in for the chicken sausage.  I had a long meeting on Monday morning and came home afterwards to finish up my work for the day at home, which meant I was home early enough to get this started — a luxury that most probably don’t have, but that’s the small biz owner tradeoff for late nights, early mornings, and unbridled stress.

Jesse had dutifully cleaned up after a little Super Bowl party that he threw here the day before, so our Dutch oven was sparkling clean and in perfect shape for the job.  I started by sauteeing an entire chopped onion in some leftover bacon fat in the bottom of the Dutch oven, along with 4 cloves of smashed garlic.  After a few minutes I added 2 cups of dried black beans, covered with water, and brought that all to a boil with a bay leaf, a teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder, and some chopped up leftover charred poblano peppers that I had in the fridge from last week when I made us cheesy shrimp-stuffed peppers for dinner.  After bringing this all to a boil, I then turned everything off and let it all sit on the stove for the rest of the afternoon, not touching it again until later that night when I came home from a long run, when I brought it back to a boil and then let it simmer for about 40 minutes, with the lid slightly ajar.  (The sitting all afternoon effectively was me soaking the beans, just in a more complicated water.)

Cheesy Polenta Bowl

While the beans were simmering, I started the polenta, bringing 3 cups of water and 1 cup of milk to a boil together in a pot on the stove.  Once it started boiling, I whisked in 1 cup of polenta and 1 teaspoon of salt, covered, and simmered — whisking every few minutes to prevent clumping.  Once it had thickened, I added a big handful of shredded cheddar to the pot and stirred it in until it had incorporated.  I usually save polenta for nights like these, when Jesse does his own thing for dinner and I can experiment with foods I don’t think he’ll particularly like.  But after making polenta like this, I kind of feel like I need to force him to give it another go.  When you make polenta with this much cheese and milk, I kind of feel like anyone who loves macaroni and cheese, has to love this, too.

Cheesy Polenta Bowl

While that polenta was in its last stages of thickening, I got started on the spinach — but we also had a yam that’s been sitting around for awhile, so I chopped half of that up into little cubes and pan fried them first.  Once the yam was pretty well cooked, I added a chopped shallot, 3 cloves of pressed garlic, and a giant bunch of fresh spinach, chopped, to the skillet.  Once the spinach was perfectly wilted, I removed it from the heat.

Cheesy Polenta Bowl

Right about when I threw in the spinach, shallot and garlic, I also brought a small little saucepan of water toa boil on the adjacent burner with a spoonful of vinegar, to poach this egg.  Once the water was at a low simmering boil, I cracked the egg into the water, careful not to break the yolk, and set my timer for 4 minutes.  I think 4.5 minutes is perfect for a poached egg, so once I hear the timer go off, this gives me just enough time to find a spoon to fish it out with, assemble my bowl with all the components (polenta, beans, and spinach), and head back to the stove to place the egg on top as the crowning jewel.

Cheesy Polenta Bowl

I’m into it.

Potato Leek White Bean Soup with Collard Greens and Flatbread

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Big news: we now have a dining room table!  I got to break it in for its very first meal last Sunday night, when I had some friends over for dinner.

And then again this week, when I whipped up this delicious meal, while Jesse geeked out on his new bike, trying to find the perfect orientation for his homemade pannier stereo, in preparation for Elizabeth’s Dirty 30 Fancy Cocktail Hopping Bike Extravaganza that we embarked on Wednesday night, with a crew of about 30 of our friends.

Note: I do know the correct pronunciation of “pannier,” but have Americanized it for the sake of convenience.  I get a lot of crap whenever I pronounce it like I’m Canadian.

Really, this soup was so simple, I don’t think I even remembered to take a picture. I had started some white beans soaking earlier in the afternoon after coming home from some errands (and discovering The Portland Fruit Company, OMG!! And way to go on the domain name score, btw), which I boiled while getting the base going.

This entailed chopping some leeks, and sauteeing those in some olive oil, along with a few cloves of pressed garlic, some salt, a diced Hatch chile, and coriander.

Then I added some russet potatoes, diced into 2″ chunks, some chicken stock and water, and some fennel seeds, and let this all cook together (adding the beans once they were nearly cooked) until all the ingredients were nice and soft. I was totally not up for getting the blender dirty (and I’m pretty sure the rubber ring has somehow gotten stuck in the garbage disposal) so I just used a potato masher to half-puree the soup right there in the pot, giving it a nice milky consistency but leaving enough chunks of veggies so it wasn’t too smooth. I was going to add some milk or cream but really, it was rich enough without it.

I had just bought a gargantuan bunch of collard greens and was stoked to get to use them.  First, some oil and butter in the skillet,  and a tablsepoon or so of mustard seeds, cooking them until they started to pop.

And entire chopped onion got sauteed in this…

And then the entire head of greens, chopped, while I melted an inch’s worth of chicken stock off of the cube I keep in the freezer.

Once the greens were bright and just wilted enough, I threw in a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and salt to finish it off, rolled out some flatbread dough that I’ve been keeping in the fridge, and fried that up in a little bit of olive oil.

Oh  yes, and I also made chocolate chip banana bread out of some bananas that were taking up too much room in the freezer!

This Week’s Groceries

Portland Fruit Company 9/11

  • Collard Greens: $1.29
  • Kale: $1.29
  • Yellow onions: $2.14
  • Hatch chile: $0.79
  • Garlic: $0.60

TOTAL: $6.11


Poached Salmon with Ginger Honey Cinnamon Glaze, Coconut Collard Greens, and Red Rice

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I love when I can make a delicious dinner entirely out of what’s already in my kitchen, and all that is required is stopping on my bike ride home to pick up some fish and a head of collard greens.

I can’t even believe how busy this week is, and relish in the fact that with all that’s going on, I still take the time to cook myself a delicious meal on a Wednesday night.  Really, at a time like this, I should be eating take-out or leftover pizza from UCU last weekend.  I mean, seriously.  After driving back down to Portland on Sunday night, I spent all day Monday unpacking from the show and reorganizing the shop, prepping for the coming work week, especially because my wonderful employee is on vacation and I’m flying solo for the next 2 weeks.  Awesome timing.

Then on Tuesday morning, I signed about 1,000 pieces of paper, and agreed to a bill whose final payment is due in 2042.  Yep, I bought a house.  NBD.

Then, I’m working all week, getting the keys to the house, spending the evening with my best friend who just got back from 3 weeks in Hawaii, hosting old high school friends from out of town Saturday night, and then quickly washing the sheets so I can host my business partner for a 24 hour debrief of last weekend’s show.  And we’ll treat ourselves to a fancy dinner in there somewhere.

Oh, and then Monday I had to buy a fridge.  And a bed.

And then Tuesday I move.  Into my new house.

And then Wednesday I will go to work and spend the whole rest of the evening prepping 4 days worth of food to bring with us to String Cheese at Horning’s, the festival we’ll be at the whole following weekend.

And yet, last night I came home and still felt compelled to cook this.

As soon as I walked in the door and poured myself some iced tea, I got a pot of red and brown rice started on the stove.

A lot of times when I make a teriyaki-esque type of sauce, it involves stir frying veggies or noodles or meat first, then incorporating an Asian sauce concoction into it.  But for some reason this time, I just wanted a nice thick, bubbly sauce, so I started with that.  Pus, I have about 9 half-used bottles of red wine that I’d really love to not transport with me to my next residence, so this seemed like a good way to tap into that.

First, some minced ginger.

This went into the big skillet on medium-high heat with some honey, soy sauce, chopped garlic, and a hefty amount of red wine.  It smelled disgusting at first, but once the sauce bubbled together and reduced and the alcohol cooked off, it became deliciously sweet and dark and syrupy.

I put the salmon directly into the skillet, still frozen, and let it thaw and start to cook from the steam as the sauce continued to reduce and the water evaporated off the fish.

When it was about half cooked, I was able to remove the fish and peel off the skin with my fingers, removed the sauce from the heat and let it all sit there while I worked on the greens.

Have you ever had to deal with collard greens before?  There are few veggies out there that I won’t use in their entirety, but collard and chard stems are one of them.  I mean, if I’m making a soup the next day then sure, I’ll toss them in, but really other than that, I don’t force it.  I compost now so it’s all good.

What I like to do here is take each leaf, and quickly slice out the stem, making diagonal cuts right along each side of the rib and plucking the stem from the middle.

After doing this to each leaf, I stack them all on top of each other, roll them up like I’m chiffonading basil, make a slice lengthwise down the middle, and then again perpendicularly into strips — this makes perfect little rectangles for sauteeing.

Sliced up half an onion…

Then, in a separate pan, I heated up some coconut oil, and let the onion caramelize with some salt for a few minutes.

In went all the greens, and as they cooked down to the size of the pan, I added some jerk seasoning, a splash of cider vinegar, and some black pepper.

I wanted to add just a bit of chicken broth, but I’ll let you in on a secret.  You know those recipes that tell you to add like half a cup of chicken broth?  It’s like, who has that?  Any commercial liquid broth that’s open in the fridge will go back long before I get a chance to use half a cup of it, and any bullion requires a separate pot to make the broth in…for half a cup?  Here’s what I do: I make my own chicken stock each time I roast a chicken — about once a month — and keep the stock in serving-size containers in the freezer, usually cottage cheese-sized.

Then I use these the same way you’d use a stick of butter to grease a cooking pan: take out the fist-sized ice cube, and place it in the pan of whatever needs a little extra richness.

Not for too long — maybe 3 minutes, until just a few layers (or about half a cup!) melt off.  Then, put the broth cube back in the cottage cheese container and replace in the freezer.  No harm done, no broth wasted, no extra pot to clean.

Did I mention that I don’t have a sink in my kitchen?

Yep, 4 years and approximately 3,800 meals cooked…without a kitchen sink.  Just one of the many things I’m really, really excited about in my new house.

So anyway, I took the greens off the heat and let them absorb the rest of that broth while they cooled, and returned the salmon-and-sauce pan back to medium-high heat for another five minutes or so until the salmon had finished cooking and was wonderfully warm and caramelized.


This Week’s Groceries

Trader Joe’s 7/9

  • Sockeye salmon fillets: $6.69
  • Cod fillets: $4.39
  • Roasted plantain chips: $1.69 — for the bike ride home.  
  • 2 cans tuna: $3.38

TOTAL: $16.15



QFC 7/11

  • Roma tomatoes: $1.00
  • Green pepper: $0.94
  • Half & half: $2.29
  • Cottage cheese: $2.99
  • Red onion: $0.55
  • Cucumber: $1.79

TOTAL: $9.56



New Seasons 7/11

  • Collard Greens: $2.49

TOTAL: $2.49


Blackened Salmon, Creamy Polenta, and Tangy Greens

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Okay, guys.  This meal took 15 minutes to make, from the minute I walked in the door to the moment I sat down at the table — no joke.

Granted, it did require the purchase of a fresh piece of fish, which I rarely do, but I had to swing by Fred Meyer after work anyway, because the wind today was so strong that it actually tore the face off my A-board at the store and I needed to buy some heavy duty adhesive before going to work tomorrow.  And then apparently a container of olives to eat while I drove home.  

Anyway, this meal was the result of three super-fast components — a critical feature since I don’t get my days off this week, yet still have to do all my typical prep-before-a-trip stuff, before heading up to my mom’s on Thursday after work.

First, polenta.

(No, unfortunately, that’s not the bottle it came in.)

The ratio for cornmeal is about 3:1, so for myself I combined in a pot 1/3 of a cup of cornmeal, 1 cup of water, a hefty pinch of salt and pepper, a couple shakes of red pepper flakes, and a few sundried tomatoes (I buy them in the bulk aisle, not packed in oil).

I brought all this to a boil, and then reduced to low until the liquid had absorbed; then I added about 1/3 of a cup of milk, gave it a stir and let that absorb as well, then removed it from the heat and kept it covered.

Meanwhile, I pan fried the salmon in a little olive oil and my favorite Caribbean seasoning.

Once it had cooked almost entirely through, I threw a huge pile of greens on top.  (This was a bag of greens that I mistakenly thought was mixed greens for salad; turns out New New Seasons has added some sort of kale/mustard pre-torn mix to their bulk bins!)

Atop this I sprinkled a little more salt, pepper, some nutritional yeast, and then a couple squirts of lime juice, and stirred it for about a minute, until the greens had wilted down to a manageable volume.