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The Sage and the Cook: Soups and Stews
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Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen: 100 Recipes Featuring the Bold Flavors of Fermentation

Sep 17

ledaBkCvHere’s a truly great cookbook, Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen: 100 Recipes Featuring the Bold Flavors of Fermentation, by Leda Scheintaub (Rizolli), 2014, 192 pages, $22.16.

While this book offers readers new to fermenting plenty of entry points, more accomplished cooks will find ideas for expanding their repertoires. Just as fermentation transforms food with a natural alchemy, Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen opens up a whole new world of flavor in the kitchen.

Some of you will recognize Leda as my dear friend, culinary partner and co-author of Soups and Stews. Leda has taken ownership of my food philosophy and reinvented it for her generation. What an incalculable gift is that. Her writing is as lively as a bubbly ferment and her flavor-packed recipes please on at least two counts: they’re healthy and user friendly.LedaPublishedMilletCake copy

I have been working my way through Leda’s recipes and my favorites include Coconut Sorbet, Juiced-Up-Mustard, Shortcut Salt-Cured Salmon and Basil-Lime Kombucha Dressing.

Here’s Leda’s tasty Fermented Millet Porridge that, thanks to an easy fermented step, has boosted flavor, nutrition and digestibility. Be sure to make extra and use the leftovers for Millet Polenta Cakes with Zucchini, Daikon, Cherry Tomatoes, and Cilantro-Miso Pesto, pictured here.

Photo credit, William Brinson

Millet Polenta Cakes with Zucchini, Daikon, Cherry Tomatoes, and Cilantro-Miso Pesto

Sep 17

LedaPublishedMilletCake copyReprinted with permission from Cultured Foods for your Kitchen by Leda Scheintaub. Photo by William Brinson.

This recipe is an extension of the Fermented Millet Porridge concept (and a riff on the French-style chickpea flour–based bites known as panisse); after you’ve made your porridge, you pour it onto a baking sheet to firm up, then cut it into squares and bake to crisp it (it firms up very quickly, so be prepared to pour just as it comes off the burner). Millet polenta is open to endless variations, serving as the base for any number of meat or vegetable toppings; the one I’ve presented here features a light and flavorful medley of summer vegetables and a miso-based pesto for a little extra culture and dairy-free flavor. To make this dish completely dairy free, pass on the yogurt topping. You can cook the polenta a day ahead of time; pour it into the baking sheet, cool, and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake it.

Millet polenta freezes well (freeze it before baking), so feel free to double up the base polenta recipe and keep some on hand to heat up as you like. Or take your double recipe and make meals with it through the week: I like it for breakfast with a fried egg and hot sauce, and I’ll warm up a square to serve as the carb portion of my lunch or dinner. A toasted polenta square drizzled with maple syrup makes a sweet midday treat.

Serves 3 to 4

Millet polenta

Extra-virgin olive oil for the pan and brushing
1 recipe just-cooked Fermented Millet Porridge

Pesto

1 to 2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped
1 cup (120 grams) pine nuts or pumpkin seeds or a mixture
2 to 3 tablespoons light miso
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt if needed
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil

Vegetables
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound (450 grams/2 to 3) zucchini, chopped
1 small daikon root, chopped
1 cup (125 grams) cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 scallion, white and green parts, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste

To serve
Greek yogurt, homemade or store-bought (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

Make the millet polenta: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Grease a 9-inch (23-centimeter) square baking dish and a baking sheet.

As the millet porridge is cooked, immediately pour it from the pan into the prepared baking dish. Spread the mixture out evenly with a spatula and set aside to cool and set for about 1 hour.

 When the polenta is set, cut it into 9 equal squares. (Alternatively, you could use a round or other shape cookie cutter to form various-shaped cakes.) Place the squares on the greased baking sheet, brush with oil, and bake until the edges start to brown but the inside remains soft, 30 to 35 minutes. While the millet is in the oven, make the pesto and vegetables.

Make the pesto: With the motor of a food processor running, drop the garlic in through the feed tube to mince it. Add the remaining ingredients except the oil and process to combine. With the motor running, drizzle the oil in through the feed tube and process until smooth. Taste and add salt and/or more lime juice if needed. You could make the pesto a day or two in advance.  

Make the vegetables: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, until just starting to color. Add the zucchini and daikon and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened but still al dente. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes, until softened. Remove from the heat and stir in the scallion. Add the lemon juice and salt; taste and add more lemon juice and/or salt if needed.

Arrange 2 or 3 polenta squares on a serving plate. Top with vegetables and drizzle with pesto. Finish with a dollop of yogurt and a few grinds of the peppermill.