Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Za'atar Crusted Polenta (Z is for Za'atar)

Aieeeee! It's Z! Z snuck up on me!

Most of the alphabet I decided on as I went along. A couple of these, I didn't know what I was going to do for that letter until uh, the day of. I am not a great plan-ahead-er when it comes to cooking. (I am a big planner in my non-cooking life, so maybe that's why. Balance, people.) But I knew what I would do from day one: za'atar!


What is za'atar? I thought I was cheating by using it initially, since I thought it meant a particular spice blend. But za'atar (or za'tar or zatar or however you want to spell it) actually refers to any herb in the same family as wild thyme: thyme, marjoram, oregano, savory, and maybe a few more. Za'atar the spice blend is usually some combination of these (thyme being most common) plus toasted sesame seeds plus salt plus ground sumac. I had a little bit of a pre-made mix that was thyme/sesame/salt/sumac and nothing else, and then I bumped it up with additional thyme, marjoram, oregano, sesame seeds, and salt. Basically extra everything except sumac (which I don't have, sadly).

One of the most common things to do with za'atar is to mix it with oil and slather it on things. Usually flatbread but sometimes also vegetables and such. I had this urge to put it on polenta. Why polenta? I don't know, but isn't polenta good? When I first went vegan, I used to always broil it and put tomato sauce on it and just eat it like that, and it was so good, so crusty and crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. So I thought, I'll slather the outside of it with za'atar and then broil it.

Za'atar polenta

You can see from the picture above that the polenta ended up in a frying pan instead. Broiling probably would have worked, except I always used to broil polenta... in the toaster oven... on a rimmed baking sheet. Which I forgot until the polenta slices on my non-rimmed half-sheet in the normal oven (our toaster oven died, alas, alas) SLID OFF THE SHEET. After I recovered from it, I laughed so hard, because really, it was like a bad comedy sketch, all these beautiful pieces of polenta sliding towards the oven floor and me catching them on the end of my spatula and flipping them back as fast as I could.

Za'atar crusted polenta on garbanzos & greens

Anyway, I finished them in the pan instead and they weren't quite how I wanted them (more greasy than intended) but still quite good. We ate them on top of chickpeas & chard cooked in tomato sauce, which I think was an idea beamed into my head by reading a post on One Arab Vegan. Or someone else in MoFo. I definitely stole that from someone.

It was really good but, alas, I have terrible heartburn again today and fried things on top of tomato sauce is basically the worst thing I could possibly pick to eat in this situation. I got through three small slices of polenta and about a third cup of chickpeas/greens/sauce.

The Emperor actually ate his polenta of his own volition and said he really liked it. He would not, however, touch the chickpeas. Not surprising-- he has a very negative stance regarding tomato sauce on things. (Or any sauce on anything.)

Oh hey! It was our last farmer's market of MoFo 2011. (Aw, that's sad.) Want to see my loot? Here it is:

Farmer's market 10/26/11

About the last couple of days of MoFo: don't worry, I'll be here! I think my theme for the remaining 5 days will be easy dinners. (Josh joked that we should just have takeout for the rest of the month to make up for all the cooking.) And of course, there will be a wrap up. And Emperor pictures.

Speaking of which, the first time I tried photographing him tonight, he told me very pointedly, "I don't want Mommy to take pictures of me." Well, excuse me. Later I got him wearing my bike helmet:

Bike helmet


Mel said...

Congratulations on making it through the alphabet, you did it in such good time too! I laughed when I read your intro as I am the opposite, I tend to be a really good food planner but that's about the extent of planning in my life. What a fantastic looking meal to finish off the alphabet, I'm glad you laughed rather than cried about the mishap!

VeganLinda said...

Za'atar is a favorite around here too. My kids would eat it on anything or straight out of the jar. Yum!

Kate said...

Excellent alphabet posts. I have looked forward to them every day!

Anonymous said...

i never know what to do with my za'atar, thanks for the idea!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love thyme! And I love oiling and the slathering of the spices on things--this is my recipe! :) And the Emperor--models can be so fickle and temperamental, can't they? :)

Laura said...

Yum, I love za'atar...polenta sounds like a good way to serve it.

Nada said...

Za'atar is the best! I love it on pastries but the polenta combination sounds just as good.