(Reluctantly) Channeling My Inner Rachel Ray

People often wrongly assume that as a chef I must eat a beautiful, multi-course meal every night. Not true! Putting together a meal both tasty and healthy is often a challenge for me, especially after cooking all day. There are plenty of nights that my dinner consists of frozen fish fillets rolled up in tortillas and drowned in Tapatio (I do cook the fish first, if that wasn’t clear).  Or my personal favorite, Triscuits, cheese, and a 10 oz. glass of wine.

Fortunately for all of us, there is a middle ground between fine dining and frozen fish, and today’s recipe is a perfect example. These individual tamale pies are really satisfying, full of protein and vegetables, and can make it to your table in about an hour, including cooking time.

Tofu Tamale Pie

Tofu Tamale Pie:

12 oz. firm tofu, drained.  Any ground meat works well, too.

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

3/4 C. chopped peppers of any color. A mix is good, too.

3/4 C. canned diced tomatoes

3/4 C. prepared, jarred salsa (not fresh salsa).  I adore Frontera brand Guajillo Salsa.

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

3 C. chicken or vegetable broth

3/4 C. dry polenta

4 oz. good quality cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 C. grated)

Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt, Avocado slices, and hot sauce for garnishing

To prepare the tofu, cut it into 4 or 5 equal slices and lay out along one edge a clean kitchen towel.  Carefully roll the towel over a few times, folding the tofu blocks inside. Apply gently pressure to one side of the tofu roll, then turn over and apply gentle pressure to the other. Much of the tofu’s water will be absorbed into the towel, which is exactly what you want. Remove the towel and stack the tofu, cutting into equally sized cubes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Preheat a very large saute pan or a dutch oven over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the canola oil and swirl to coat the hot pan. Slide your tofu cubes into the hot oil, quickly spreading them into a single layer. Sprinkle generously with salt and let them brown for 3-4 minutes without turning. Once the cubes are browning on the bottom, use a spatula to turn them over, browning another side of the cubes as well. It doesn’t have to be the opposite side – you just want some good color and texture on at least two of the sides. Remove the tofu and set aside.

In the same pan, saute the onion for 2-3 minutes or until translucent, add the peppers and saute another few minutes, sprinkling the vegetables with a little salt.  Add the tomatoes, salsa and black beans and bring to a simmer.  Return the tofu to the pan and stir to combine. Add more salt if necessary and set aside to cool slightly.

For the polenta, place a medium sized stockpot with the broth over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the polenta and whisk vigorously to break up any lumps.  Reduce the heat to low and cover for 3 minutes, whisking again once or twice to prevent the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese, whisking until melted.

You can assemble the pies as I did in individual dishes, or just in one large pie pan or oven proof dish. Simply scoop the filling into the dishes and top with ladles or cupfuls of the polenta. Place the pan or pans on a lined baking dish in case of bubbling over.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling out from beneath the cheesy polenta crust.

Serve with sour cream or yogurt, avocado slices, and hot sauce.

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