Last night, I informed Mr. Onepot that we were about to order Chinese.  Then, out of some poorly defined but quite persistent guilt, I found myself preparing the following:

Polenta+spinach+black bean strata

  • 3 cups water + 1 cup milk
  • 1.25 cup polenta
  • .5 large onion
  • 1 can black beans
  • .5 lb spinach (fresh, in this case, but surely frozen would also do)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • salt, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 380F.
  2. Bring the water and milk to a boil.  (Remember that milk will trick you into thinking it’s nowhere near boiling, and then, in less than a second, puff up to an obscene height and spill all over your stove top.  So, sorry to say, you will have to babysit this just a bit.)
  3. Once it boils, stir in the polenta and salt.  Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring only occasionally.  (This you don’t have to babysit!  I’ve never understood why people complain about the intense attention polenta requires.  In the Old Country, we treat it roughly and it turns out just fine.)
  4. While the milk+water are heating up, start sauteing the onion.  Once it’s soft and happy, add the beans along with a touch of their liquid.  Season ever so generously with paprika and cayenne pepper.
  5. After the beans and onions have had, say, 5 minutes to get to know each other, turn the heat off, toss the spinach on top of them, and cover.  The residual heat will cause the spinach to wilt just a touch, making it more manageable.
  6. In an altogether unrelated bowl (oh, this is so not a one-pot dish), beat the egg and combine with the yogurt.
  7. Layer!  First the polenta, then the beany and spinachy mix, and finally the yogurty egg.
  8. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes.

(…In the end, I was so very glad we hadn’t ordered Chinese.)

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Vegetarian paprikash

November 23, 2009

This is Part II in the Must Empty The Fridge series, starring:

  • 1 large onion
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 5-6 medium potatoes
  • 2 smallish eggplants (or 1 large)
  • 1 bell pepper (composed, in my case, of 1/2 a green one and 1/2 a red one)
  • ~2 cups of liquid (chicken broth, vegetable broth, water, or a combination)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (at least!  …I won’t tell you how much I really used)
  • salt to taste
  1. Saute the onions and garlic for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes, eggplant, paprika, salt, liquid.  Simmer until the vegetables are soft; 15-20 minutes should do the trick.
  3. Add the peppers and let them get warm and happy for another minute or so.
  4. Serve over egg noodles.

Now, paprikash can be one of those comfort foods that transports some of us straight to our grandmother’s house, to a different continent and a different time…  But that’s perhaps only if sweet paprika is used?  I happened to use hot paprika, which gave the dish zero grandmotherly comfort but a whole lot of delicious roars and thunderbolts.


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If you’ve visited our home recently, there’s a good likelihood that I attempted to sprinkle smoked hot paprika into or onto you.  I’m good at restraining myself from putting it in coffee, tea, or desserts; everything else, however, is fair game.

And just how did this obsession come about, you’re wondering?  It all began on a leaden  December morning off the coast of Georgia, when my husband and a couple of men-in-law were tasked with the job of catching our Christmas dinner.  I contributed by making occasional calls to Mr. Onepot’s miserable boat-bound self from the caffeinated warmth of my mother-in-law’s house, only to be greeted with semi-intelligible, wind-whipped grumbles that mostly amounted to, “NO-kgrhsh-grm-fngh–LATER!”

…And the catch, at the end of all that?  Zilch.  So, naturally,  Mr. Onepot and my men-in-law went straight from the boat to a seafood store.  Turns out, though: even the most reputable fish market on a small Georgia island tends to get a bit quiet right before Christmas, and its desperate customers can select from just two grayish piles of undefined seafood-like matter.  Who knew.

Enter smoked hot paprika!  Let me just say that our mystery fish was transformed from colorless, quivering heaps  to perky and confident fillets with some courageous dashes of this magic powder and a couple of sliced lemons.  And thus began my obsession.

Fast forward 1o months, to an October Monday that taunted me with its entirely premature dusk and mediocre television offerings.  It seemed like paprika would help.  And while I was getting it out, I also came across its good friend, the Spice House curry powder:

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Next, a quick cabinet-and-fridge search yielded the following playground for those lovelies:

  • 2 cups of red lentils (so small! so adorable!)
  • 1 medium cauliflower
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger
  • ~5 cups of water
  • 1 bunch of scallions

If you’re playing along at home, here’s what to do:

  1. Saute the onion+garlic+ginger for ~5 minutes, adding a generous dash of curry powder and paprika approximately 2 minutes into the process.
  2. Add the lentils and 4 cups of water.  Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for ~20 min.
  3. Toss in another cup of water, along with the chopped cauliflower.
  4. Cook on low until the cauliflower is as soft as you want it to be.
  5. Serve over rice or quinoa, with chopped scallions.

Lovely.