My daughter goes to art classes in a small warm cozy art studio in Maplewood, NJ. The owner is an extremely talented, warm and nice. She was organizing an Art Show at her studio and wanted me to cater some short eats to go with wine for all the people who were invited. I decided to make Polenta but wanted to make it mess free for people to pick and eat. The first thing that came to my mind was the mini cupcake baking pan. I have baked so many cupcakes and done bake sales for my daughter’s school. I decided to use the cupcake bake pan to mold the polenta. I always try and use Bob’s Corn Grits or Polenta from the supermarket simply because its convenient and easy to prepare.
The instructions usually tell you to cook the corn grits with water but I do it differently.
Currylicious Tip: I whisk half heavy cream and half whole milk in a pot until it comes to a boil. Then, I add corn grits and whisk well to avoid lumps. By the way dont ask me why I whisk the cream/milk and bring it to a boil:))) lol I just feel that it tastes absolutely delicious when I make it this way!
Once the polenta is creamy and hot, I spooned it into the mini cupcake baking pans and leave it in the refrigerator to set for about 1/2 hour. Once you take them out of the refrigerator, you can scoop out the polenta cupcakes easily. I also made a baked eggplant dish which i used to top off the polenta cupcakes.
I also made a Tuscan ChickPea spread with garlic and tomatoes and it was served on toasted bread.
I took all the food to the studio as I was also invited to the Art Show. It was so much fun meeting several people and to see them taste my food and get their feedback and appreciation.
I must begin by saying that I had the most wonderful time cooking for such a wonderful crowd at Whole Foods at Montclair in NJ yesterday.
Carmen, the lead for cooking demos at the store was such a cheerful person and helped me out completely with the set up of my station and making me feel like I was at my home kitchen:) Evelyn ran every single time to get stuff whenever I ran out of sampling plates or spoons. I dont remember stopping for a single minute to even drink a sip of water. I was completely in my zone once people started coming in and thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of it that I dint want to miss any of it:)
So what did I cook? I had exchanged several emails with Carmen before coming up with this menu. Knowing Montclair and its residents, I knew QUINOA was one of my choices. A lot of people came up to me with difficulty pronouncing Quinoa and I had to break it up for them as (pronounced as K-i-N-WAH) 🙂
I decided to go for a Quinoa Salad. One, the reason being -Tuesdays at Whole Foods is Local Tasting meaning I was asked to make the best use of as much as local produce that was at the store. I instantly felt like a kid in a candy store- especially if you ask a vegetarian like me to pick local produce/veggies!!!!
The second reason being- Quinoa is a grain-like crop grwon for its edible seeds and is a complete protein as per nutritional evaluations. Quinoa high in dietary fiber, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calicium and is popular amongst vegans and for those who are lactose intolerant. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest.
I decided to incorporate as much veggies possible, like zucchini, summer squash, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers…..and made a Quinoa Salad. Of course I sauted my onions, tomatoes, zucchini and squash with my special blend of freshly toasted and ground Indian spices! or freshly ground “curry” powder.
My demo was to start at 3 pm but I reached the store early so I have enough time to set up and start cooking the Quinoa. Carmen said the expected crowd between 3 and 6pm on a Tuesday at Whole Foods was about 150!!!! So I cooked for that many :))))
I had this huge pot that was simmering away with my Quinoa and veggies in it. I had just begun making my sauce- I wanted to make an Indian curried sauce to layer on top of the quinoa to take the salad to a next level. Meantime, I saw many people approaching my station and urging me to make samplers. Being the person I am, I started making samplers of just the Quinoa while working on the making that sauce at the same time. I was so happy to hear wonderful comments from people who merely tasted the Quinoa with veggies. A lot of them said, they got the package of quinoa but when they took it home and tried cooking it- it was dry or that they werent able to get the proportion of quinoa versus water right.
A simple trick is- I never follow package instructions because it always says 1: 1!!!!! No way- you will end up with a plate of undercooked quinoa. Always, add extra broth or water to check if the quinoa is cooked completely. You know its done is when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Also, while cooking the Quinoa always try and keep it covered or use a lid to cover.
Now I make my sauce with garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes and my freshly ground spices. I layer the Curried sauce over the Quinoa. I wanted to use a layer of crunch on top of the sauce so I used Organic Tempeh from Whole Foods and crumbled it, seasoned it well with cumin, coriander and “curry powder”. I saute the crumbled tempeh with a tad bit of oil in a pan till it gets a crisp coat on the surface. Now Tempeh is a meat substitute made of Soy and is very high in protein.
So I layer my sauted crumbled tempeh over my curried sauce and quinoa with veggies. I garnish the whole dish with some green scallions, colored bell peppers and some tomatoes and top it off with some cilantro!
A lot of you them who stopped by my station asked me if I sold the Sauce in a jar and they wanted to buy it:)LOL
But I promised them, I will look into it- its a possibility I would explore!!!!
They loved my sauce and the dish and were very encouraging and appreciative,
All the kind words, words of encouragement and love is what motivates me so keep it coming guys…..can never get enough!!!
Thanks much to my friend Rob and his sister April Peters for coming out, tasting my dish and being so supportive!
Thanks again to every single person who came out to Whole Foods, and stopped by my station to taste my dish-Appreciate your time and I hope I was able to answer every one of your questions on the dish and otherwise…..
(This pic was taken at the end of the cooking demo at 6pm and I am exhausted, struggling to smile for the camera but my husband and kids came to pick me up and I was thrilled to see them !!!!Thanks so much for being so supportive!)
With much love ……. and looking forward to more events so keep tuning into my blog for updates on events and where to find me:)
Chop up the onion, garlic and tomatoes finely. Remove the stems of the mushrooms and cut them into half. Take a wet paper cloth and wipe them to take off any dirt on them. Take a pan, add a teaspoon oil, transfer the chopped onion, garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add cumin, coriander, cayenne, curry powder and salt to taste.
Then transfer the mushrooms and saute with the rest for about 5 min’s or so. For the sauce, add cilantro, basil and coconut milk in a blender and blend well. Add salt to taste. Transfer the sauce to the pan and cook for 2 min’s under a low flame.
For the garnish, cut the ginger into thin strips length wise and saute with some honey or sugar.