‘Is that red celery?’ asks the clueless young lad wanding my food through the supermarket check out. I stop for a moment. Is there such a thing as red celery? I am half excited at the idea of a new food and half confused at the possibility that I have picked up the wrong thing. But then I come to my senses and tell him it is rhubarb.
This is so different from buying rhubarb at the farmer’s market where the nice salesperson will advise me on how to cook it. But it did make me wonder if supermarkets do have a role in public education. If this boy hasn’t learnt to identify his fruit and vegetables at home or school, then I hope he will take away a little knowledge as well as pocket money from this part time job.
I might have felt like the one with the knowledge at the supermarket check-out, but in the world of blogging we are constantly learning new things. In making this dinner, I not only learnt that polenta and quinoa go together very well, but also that it is possible to cook polenta in the microwave without having to attempt to stir a pot that reminds me of a belching volcano of vicious lava.
As usual, I have other bloggers to thank for their inspiration. Rachel at Wheat Free Meat Free shared the brilliant idea for Polenta Quinoa Sticks. I found this recipe through the round-up for the Beautiful Bones event held by Susan at Food Blogga. Rachel served her sticks with tomato sauce and cheese, in the style of a parmigiana. But further inspiration came to me from Mansi at Fun and Food who is hosting Meeta’s Monthly Mingle, with the theme this month of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.
Appetizers makes me think of light first course dishes such as tomatoes stuffed with guacamole or stuffed pears but I rarely serve a series of courses and if I do I am more likely to start with a soup. On the odd occasions that I hold parties, I tend to serve finger food such as vegetarian sausage rolls or dips such as hummus. But I imagine that these polenta quinoa sticks, much like a healthy version of chips, would be perfect for entertaining if served with an interesting sauce. I couldn't resist making the Rhubarb Dipping Sauce that I found in The Vegetarian Lunchbox by Linda Haynes.
The hardest part about making these sticks is the planning. I had to start preparing at lunchtime to have them ready by dinner. I misunderstood what a griddle is (isn’t that a frypan?) and fried these easily without too much smoke or sticking. But I will try baking the leftovers which is what I have now seen that Rachel did and which would be easier if preparing them for a crowd. They were a pleasing contrast of crispy edges, soft polenta and nubbly quinoa. The rhubarb sauce had sweet, spicy and sour notes that made me wonder if it might be umami (a term I still don’t have my tongue around, if you’ll excuse the pun).
At the end of the meal E was quite surprised to find he had been eating rhubarb sauce, despite me discussing it with him a couple of times. I guess the idea just was too weird for his brain to comprehend it. We both loved the polenta quinoa sticks with the sauce. I served it with lots of vegetables (roasted beetroot, pumpkin, zucchini and mushroom, and steamed broccoli) which pleased me but not E so much. But we did find that steamed broccoli is also wonderful dipped into the sauce. (Note the new dipping bowls recently given to me by my dad.)
I think the pairing of comforting chippies and unusual flavours in the sauce makes this the sort of dish that not only might make the tastebuds tingle at a party but would also provide a talking point when people discovered there is rhubarb in a savoury sauce.
Polenta Quinoa Sticks
(From Wheat Free Meat Free )
- ¾ cup cornmeal
- ½ cup quinoa (I used red quinoa)
- 4 cups water
- Salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Optional extras: parmesan cheese, tasty cheese, nutritional yeast, fresh herbs, baby spinach, spring onions, sundried tomatoes, olives (I added parmesan and baby spinach)
Place cornmeal, quinoa, water and salt and pepper in a microwave-proof bowl and stir. Microwave the uncovered bowl on high for 7½ minutes. Stir and cook on high a further 7½ minutes. (You can also make the polenta-quinoa in a saucepan on the stove by simmering, covered, for 20 minutes, or until quinoa is al dente. Turn off heat and leave saucepan covered for 10 minutes and then use a fork to fluff up.)
Cool for 5 minutes. Stir in olive oil and any optional ingredients. Spoon mixture into a greased 28 x 18 cm slice tin. (I think I might use baking paper to line mine next time.) Cool for about 2 hours or til it feels to be about room temperature. (I think placing the tin on a wire rack might help it cool.) Place in the fridge for about 3 hours or til cool (You can cover with plastic wrap but I didn’t.) Rachel helpfully says you can leave it here for a few days if necessary.
Invert on cutting board and cut into sticks or cut in the tin. I cut mine into batons about the size of large chips. Spray oil on a non-stick frypan and fry for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Or place on an oiled oven tray and bake in a moderately hot oven (200 C) for about 20-30 minutes or until brown and crusty.
Serve with melted mozzarella and tomato sauce (parmigiana) or with a dipping sauce such as the Rhubarb sauce below.
Rhubarb Dipping Sauce
(adapted from Linda Haynes)
2 cups rhubarb (about 2 medium stalks)
½ cup water
¼ cup honey
Juice of ¼ lemon
1 tbsp seeded mustard
1 small garlic clove, crushed
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Cut rhubarb into 1 inch chunks and place in a small saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes (mine was well done after 10). If you have a bit extra cooked rhubarb it goes well in a smoothie.
Add remaining ingredients and blend using a hand held blender or a food processor.
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