Saturday 7 June 2008

Polenta Quinoa Sticks with Rhubarb Sauce

‘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 )
Serves 4-6

- 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)
Serves 4-6

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.

On the Stereo:
Revolver: The Beatles


  1. Love the sticks even if they require quite some work. And lucky me I can use the microwave to make the mix. Cool :)!

  2. Quinoa and cornmeal? Oh, yes please. What a great idea. Rhubarb is not something I cook with, but I really must reconsider.

  3. wow Johanna, the quinoa sticks look awesome! brilliant combo, and that rhubarb sauce must've been a kick on the taste!! thanks so much for sharing it with us at the MM!:)

  4. Wow. I never would have considered pairing cornmeal and quinoa together, but love both, and can imagine them coming together perfectly in this sort of appetizer/snack. The dipping sauce is also intriguing.

  5. thanks Lore - using the microwave really does make this dish a lot easier!

    thanks Lisa - the rhubarb cooked without sugar was amazingly tart - definitely worth a try - and I know I don't need to sell quinoa and cornmeal to you

    thanks Mansi - yes the rhubarb sauce has quite a pleasing kick - always happy to join the mingle!

    thanks CookinPanda - I was quite inspired by the idea of quinoa and polenta together - not something I would think of but it makes a lot of sense

  6. Glorious combination. And I am THRILLED that you've finally found a quinoa recipe that you both love.


  7. This is my kind of recipe! Very creative to prepare a rhubarb dipping sauce. Glad that E enjoyed it :)

  8. This looke like a really tasty meal and a combination I have never thought of. It looks like an absolute winner though!

  9. thanks Lucy - yep, this is a quinoa recipe for me - had the leftovers baked tonight and they were still fantastic

    Thanks LisaRene - I can imagine this dish going down well with some of your lovely nibbles!

  10. thanks Lysy - it was a great combination which was the result of one of those serendipitous moments of the cookbook falling open at the right dipping sauce

  11. Ooh... both the sticks and the dipping sauce look so intriguing! I love quinoa and I'm always looking for new ways to use it.

  12. thanks Ann - definitely a good way to enjoy quinoa!

  13. Sounds lovely, just the kind of thing I'd devour. They sound a bit like the quinoa croquettes I made a while back, and would be perfect with that rhubarb sauce (glad E liked it, too!). Oh, and such pretty bowls! ;)

  14. Ooo those polenta quinoa sticks really caught my eye! They look so good.

  15. thanks Ricki - I am hoping to make the croquettes at some stage too - these sticks just make me even more keen to try them

    thanks Ashley - they are excellent!

  16. I'm intrigued, but the thought of 4-5 hours of cooling is a bit daunting. Maybe start early on a weekend to have it for a light lunch? I AM really excited about the rhubarb sauce. It's so rarely served as a component in savory dishes.

  17. thanks Neen - the polenta mixture can also be made a day ahead and left til you are ready if that helps! But yes I would love to see rhubarb used more in savoury dishes - it is such a great fruit/vegetable

  18. Wow, wow, wow! I can't wait to try these!

  19. Glad you're digging the sticks! Rhubarb sauce sounds intriguing.


  20. Johanna, these polenta quinoa sticks look amazing! I can't wait to try them. We are so excited to have the recipe included in this week's FoodieView Recipe Roundup. Thanks for sharing it with us!


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