Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spinach, Corn, and Polenta Souffle

While I love meat, I try not to each too much for it for both health and environmental reasons, but refuse to be left craving flavor or sustenance just because my meal lacks animal protein. People all too often assume that vegetarian meals are boring and leave will leave you famished, but this spinach, corn, and polenta souffle is the perfect antidote to that opinion. A rich pillow of eggs and polenta envelopes fresh corn and spinach with a punch of blue cheese in this fantastically savory dish. The pungent flavor of blue cheese that I adore isn't for everyone, so feel free to substitute feta or another milder cheese to appeal to a wider audience. I made this on an ordinary Monday night, but these delicious individual souffles are glamorous enough for a dinner party as well. This is vegetarian eating that appeals to anyone who loves food, the perfect way to introduce even hardcore carnivores over to vegetarian eating.

Spinach, Corn, and Polenta Souffle
from Vegetarian Entrees That Won't Leave You Hungry by Lukas Volger
serves 4

4 eggs
5 ounces (140 g) frozen spinach, or 8 ounces (230 g) fresh
1 cup (240 ml) milk (whole or 2%)
1/2 cup (120 ml) water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup (70 g) coarse-grind cornmeal or polenta
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup (90 g) fresh corn kernels (from about 1 1/2 ears) or frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
4 ounces (115 g) blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C). Generously butter four 10-ounce (300 ml) round ramekins or a 1 1/2-quart souffle dish.

2. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a small bowl and the whiles in a very clean, dry mixing bowl.

3. If using fresh spinach, blanch or steam it under tender, then finely chop it. If using frozen spinach, defrost it in the microwave, cooking at 2-minute intervals on medium heat, stirring at each interval with a fork, and continuing to cook until thawed. Then drain it an, once cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much liquid as possible. IF using whole frozen spinach, finely chop it.

4. Combine the milk and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to maintain a simmer. Add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly to break up any lumps. Continue simmering and stirring until the polenta has the consistency of oatmeal or porridge (thick, but not so stiff that it appears congealed), 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach, corn, cheese, salt, and pepper.

5.  Using an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed or a good, strong arm, whisk the egg whites until they form peaks. This will take about 2 minutes with a mixer and up to 5 minutes by hand. The whites will quadruple in volume and should just hold their shape on the tip of a whisk. In four batches, fold the whites into the yolk mixture, being careful not to overmix and deflate the whites. Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. If making individual souffles, divide the mixture among the prepared dishes and place them on a baking sheet.

6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes for individual souffles or 30 to 40 minutes for one large souffle. The top should be browned, set int eh center, and firm to the touch. Serve hot or warm.

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