I’d have to say that of all the foods out there, deep-fried foods really have never been my thing. It’s no secret that I always gravitate towards clean foods versus, well, the alternative (and this is not to say I deem the food I don’t prefer to eat as unclean).
As a youngster, I never really liked many of the more popular common foods, and made many an earnest attempt to fit in with my peers – most notably a number of failed attempts to eat meat. These were always a giant disaster, as inevitably I would need to find a napkin or a suitable vessel to spit out my mouthful when my throat violently closed up on me, demanding answers as to what I had just asked it to do. Swallow a piece of turkey? It just was not going to happen. Literally. My mom took to calling me a ‘karmic vegetarian’, as if I didn’t already stand out enough, but oh well. It could have been worse I suppose
Since I really just wasn’t destined to consume the stuff, I’d say by about grade 4 I decided to give up on my dreams of being just like everyone else. I accepted that I was just naturally different and so it has been for forever and a day (and I don’t judge folks who aren’t like me, because that would just be, well, silly).
Today’s recipe is a testament to how re-makes of classics are sometimes better than what we already know, and while I do love potatoes, I’d take this version of a ‘fry’ in a heartbeat over the heavy, oil laden potatoes so many of us consume. Combined with this dip, inspired by this potato salad, this is just about the most darned delicious treat I’ve tasted in a while. And one hint: the whole thing is crazy easy.
Less heavy deep fried finger foods means saving room & digestive power for dinner. Fewer bread & grain based appetizers means more appealing to the gluten-free masses. Less planning & fussing required means you’ll likely make this more than once, and once you taste this you’ll see why and understand completely.
More ways to use polenta means use of a cheap & nutritious staple. More tasty, easy starters means less tax on you to make them. More nut-based dips from scratch means less commercial dairy, salt & additives, so treating guests (or yourself) to deliciousness stays healthy no matter what.
Parmesan Polenta Fries:
~ Adapted from Epicurious
- (3 1/4) cups cold water
- (1) cup coarse polenta
- (3/4) tsp salt
- (1/2) cup grated Parmesan (I used our good house brand, nothing too high-end, but not Kraft)
- 2 tablespoons butter or coconut butter
- olive oil for brushing
Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with oil. Combine water, polenta, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking. Once the polenta boils, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring here and there with a wooden spoon until thick , about 15-20 minutes, ensuring the heat is low enough that it doesn’t stick or burn to the bottom.
Stir in cheese and butter until incorporated, then transfer polenta to the baking dish, spreading evenly with a dampened rubber spatula. Chill, uncovered, until set, about 45 minutes. This can be done well in advance, even up to a day (which is what I did), just cover it in foil after it’s cooled and it will be good for days.
To cook, heat the oven broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil and brush (very lightly) with oil, or you can do this without the foil.
Remove the polenta from the pan, and place on a work surface. With a sharp knife, cut into one inch sticks (I got about 22 fries). Place the fries oil side down on the oiled pan or foil, and brush the tops with oil and space evenly on the baking sheet. Broil about 4 inches from heat until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Flip over carefully and broil a further 5 minutes on the other side until crispy and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool a little.
Chipotle Nut Dip:
~ Inspired by Luminous Vegans
- (1/2) cup raw macadamia nuts (or whole cashews)
- (1) tbs olive oil
- (2- 3) tbs lime juice
- (2) canned whole chipotle peppers
- (1/2) tsp salt
- (1/4) cup water
- finely chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy, tasting to adjust the lime juice (I like it on the tart side). I happen to be sitting on a 5 pound bag of macadamia nuts that I bought in Hawaii, and had been wanting to try them in a nut dip for some time. I’d say it far exceeded my expectations (I adore mac nuts). For those who wish to use cashews, the result will be just as delicious, just not as rich and creamy (but very very close).
Serve in a bowl garnished with cilantro for color if desired.
Served together the two dishes are amazing – the fries will be super hot out of the oven, so be careful not to burn your tongue!
I was thrilled to have made these ahead for cooking up the next day on a weeknight. Coming home was super easy, and the teenager and I whipped them up and paired them with a light salad and were set (we tend to do that when the husband is away). Just us and a few rounds of Friends makes for a fine few evenings, and I enjoy every second, polenta fries or not.
This dip would also pair well in a sandwich, veggie burger (or any burger), or as a dip for chips or even veggies. Kept in the fridge, it should be good for well up to a week. My new fave.