Shakshuka Polenta with Chickpeas

Shakshuka Polenta

My morning oatmeal habit single-handedly turned breakfast into the most beloved of all meals,  so it was only a matter of time before I became enamored with polenta, a creamy cornmeal dish from northern Italy (similar to grits).

While this recipe started as an empty-pantry-desperation-dinner (requiring just a few canned goods and some eggs), it has quickly become one of my most dependable weeknight suppers, eliciting frequent cravings, roommate food envy, and a new tendency to stockpile canned tomatoes. The Eggs Shakshuka from the Beat Brasserie in Harvard Square inspired this unlikely pairing, as they serve the traditional, North African tomato dish over a creamy puddle of warm polenta.

Taking recipes to a more porridge-like level is always a winning strategy in my kitchen, so it is no surprise that this Shakshuka Polenta with Chickpeas is heavy on rotation at my place this season. In fact, it just might be better than having oatmeal for dinner. I’ll let you be the judge.

Shakshuka Polenta

Shakshuka Polenta with Chickpeas

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 14-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons harissa sauce (you can also substitute 1 roasted red bell pepper, finely chopped, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, or you can omit altogether)
  • 1 cup milk (I use nonfat organic)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup corn grits/cornmeal (preferably whole grain)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
  • optional: zatar seasoning 

Method:

  1. To make the sauce, put the tomatoes and harissa in a small pot and heat on medium low, stirring occasionally. When the mixture begins to bubble around the edges, reduce heat to low, and let stay warm on the stove.
  2. In a small pot, add the milk, water, and corn grits and bring to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and let cook covered, stirring frequently. Let simmer for approximately 10 minutes, or until mixture reaches desired creaminess.
  3. To prepare the eggs, crack the eggs into two individual small bowls or ramekins.
  4. In a medium to large pot, bring water to a simmer, where the edges are bubbling but it’s not quite a full boil.
  5. Add a few teaspoons of vinegar, and swirl the water in one direction .
  6. Gently pour one of the eggs from the bowl into the water, and let cook until the white becomes opaque, and egg reaches desired level of doneness.
  7. With a slotted spoon, gently remove the poached egg and set on a paper towel. Repeat with the next egg.
  8. To serve, divide the polenta between two bowls. Top each bowl with tomato sauce, chickpeas, and a poached egg. Garnish with zatar or freshly cracked black pepper.

Shakshuka Polenta

Nutrition per Serving: 420 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated fat), 67g carbohydrates (11g fiber, 20g sugar), 22g protein, 190mg cholesterol, 460mg sodium, 43% Vitamin A, 49% Vitamin C, 25% Calcium, 36% Iron

– Kelly

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Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Vegan Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

One-pot meals (like soups or stews) have long been favored recipes in my kitchen, but lately I’ve been experimenting with a global twist on this genre: peanut soups. This West African culinary tradition has yet to reach mainstream food culture in the US, but it’s only a matter of time. After all, Americans are always looking for a new delivery vehicle for jelly’s better half.

Hearty butternut squash soup serves as the perfect base for the classic, nutty spread, while the pureed chickpeas add a velvety texture, and a familiar, satisfying flavor (think hummus – another snack dip obsession). If you enjoyed my white bean soup, then you’ll love this creamy, earthy creation, inspired by a recipe from Joanne Chang’s Flour, Too cookbook.

 Vegan Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Spicy Peanut-Squash Soup

Serves 8 (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup dried chickpeas (or one 15 oz can)
  • 1 ½ pounds chopped butternut squash, fresh or frozen (I used frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (double if you prefer a spicier soup)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water (add more if you prefer a thinner texture)
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (no added oils or sugars)
  • Optional garnishes: fresh cilantro, green onions, roasted peanuts, lime wedges

Method:

  1. If using dried chickpeas, put them in a large bowl, cover with water, and let them soak overnight. Then, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas to a pot of fresh water and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and let simmer for 1 – 1 ½ hours. When chickpeas are tender, remove from heat, drain, and rinse. If using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse the chickpeas.
  2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally for one minute. Then add the butternut squash, salt, cumin, red pepper flakes, and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, water, and drained chickpeas and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in the peanut butter. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
  5. Using an immersion or handheld blender, blend the soup into a pureed texture. If the soup seems too thick, feel free to add more water.
  6. Ladle about 1 1/3 cups of soup into serving bowls, and add garnishes (like peanuts, cilantro, lime wedges, and/or green onions), if using.

Vegan Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Nutrition per serving: 320 calories, 19g fat (2g saturated fat), 31g carbohydrates (8g fiber, 6g sugar), 13g protein, 345mg sodium, 195% Vitamin A, 34% Vitamin C, 9% Calcium, 15% Iron

Nutrition analysis does not include optional garnishes

– Kelly

Whole Grain Pasta Salad: An Easy, Healthy Make Ahead Lunch

As a kid, I always avoided pasta salad at potlucks and parties. Too vinegary for my taste, and undoubtedly loaded with child-repelling olives. But then in college I got hooked on pasta primavera, the gateway pasta, and before you know it, I was whipping up portable penne salads in my own home.

When packing my lunch for work, I like to choose meals that don’t require too much assembly in the crowded office kitchen. But they still have to be tasty enough for me to look forward to eating, filling enough to last me till dinner, and healthy enough for me to feel nourished and happy with my choice. Pasta salad fits the bill. It also makes great picnic food, which I verified this weekend at the Arnold Arboretum while soaking up the unseasonably warm weather.

This makes a great pantry clean out recipe (read: inexpensive), because like most salads, it’s super adaptable. I start with whole grain pasta (any shape will do, but the whole grains are mandatory), and then add whatever vegetables I have on hand (cherry tomatoes are a favorite when they’re in season). For protein, I like to toss in canned chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans. (Chickpeas and pasta are a highly underrated combination, as I learned from a college classmate who would sprinkle them onto spaghetti like little meatballs.) Lastly, I finish with olive oil or pesto, and sprinkle with cheese or fresh herbs if I have them on hand. Easy peasy.

The more vegetables you can add in, the healthier it will be. Looking for ideas? See below for two pasta salads that I’ve made recently.

 Healthy Whole Grain Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Broccoli, Chickpeas, Feta, and Olive Oil

Whole grain farfalle (bow-ties) with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Healthy Whole Grain Pasta Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Artichoke Pesto

Whole grain shells with cherry tomatoes, fresh corn, chickpeas, and artichoke parsley pesto (inspired by this recipe)

Next up, I’d love to try a pasta salad with butternut squash, cannellini beans, and kale pesto. What are your favorite add-ins? Share in the comments!

– Kelly