Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Perfect Appetizer for a Spring Weekend!

Easter Dresses and a fun appetizer? As a girlie girl, I ask you, "Does it get better?" This week's Friday Four recipe was one of a handful of gorgeous small bites we served up at Saks for Lafayette 148 and one of my favorite people, stylist Amy Nelson.

Gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan, but packed with deliciousness, this recipe can go far beyond the appetizer table. Just cut your polenta a little larger, sauté up a few more mushrooms and double the arugula dressing and you have dinner...done.

This is actually three recipes in one. Its all about the assembly. Never fear, its also a great recipe to make ahead. Two days ahead of time, make your polenta and put it in the fridge. Day before, you can make the pesto. Slide the polenta and pesto out of the fridge, cut the polenta and place the shapes in the oven at 350F for about 10 minutes to warm. While its cooking, sauté  the mushrooms. (You can also serve this at room temp as we did in the picture above.)

Place the polenta on a plate, top with the mushrooms and pesto. Garnish with a little more arugula if you'd like. Of course, the red pop of a sliced grape tomato would be a welcome color, too.

Sundried Tomato Polenta

7 Cups Water    
1 TB Salt
1 2/3 Cup Polenta or Grits
¼ Cup Chopped Sundried Tomatoes*

Bring the water to a boil and sprinkle in the salt and polenta, whisking constantly. Stir for about 3 minutes, turn the heat down to low, cover and set your timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the lid and stir for 2 -3 minutes. Repeat this two more times. When the polenta is cooked, stir in the sundried tomatoes and spread the polenta on a well oiled sheet pan. Place in the fridge until firm, cut into shapes with a knife or cookie cutter.

* Buy the dry - not packed in oil - sundried tomatoes for this recipe. When you feel the bag of tomatoes, they should feel soft, like a raisin. If they are hard and crumbly, pass on those and find more.

Sautéed Mushrooms

2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 – 8  OZ Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
2 TB Braggs Liquid Amino Acids*
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large sauté pan. When the oil is hot, not smoking, add in the mushrooms. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to give off liquid and brown. Add in the Braggs and continue to cook and stir until the mushrooms are browned on the edges. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

*Braggs are a great substitute for soy sauce or tamari. Easy to find in the condiments aisle of the grocery store, they are a liquid amino acid that is gluten-free.

Arugula Pesto

1 Garlic Clove
2 TB Tahini*
1 TB Lemon Juice
2 – 3 Cups Packed Arugula
½ Cup Chopped Toasted Walnuts
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Place the garlic, tahini and lemon juice in the food processor bowl and whiz until pureed. Add the walnuts and arugula and pulse to blend. With the machine running, pour the olive oil in a steady stream into the bowl, process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Tahini is ground sesame seed paste. It’s easy to find in the grocery store, or just substitute almond butter instead.