Recently at dinner one of my friends remarked that he wishes Boston had an all vegan Mexican restaurant. I thought to myself, “Well that would be wildly popular, no doubt!” Then I thought about what kind of items besides the standard burrito and taco would be on the menu. Then I remembered that Daiya Foods had just released this behemoth of a vegan cheese — pepperjack — and that I had picked some up after having been shocked out of my boots at its appearance at my local natural foods store, in my current town of Middle Of Nowhere, NH. And so, with Daiya pepperjack shreds in hand, a pie dish, and some beans — I got to work. And this delicious, belly filling, comfort food creation is what came of it.
This is a great dish to take to your next potluck or party, or just to make for your next Mexican inspired home cooked dinner. My one word of advice is to go easy on the hot peppers (or omit them) if you can’t take the heat. I originally made this with one full cherry pepper. I don’t recommend it unless you like really, really spicy food. Either way, this dish is delicious and you are bound to impress!
*If you can’t find the Daiya pepperjack near you yet, try the cheddar shreds. Those would work well too. And if you can’t find Daiya near you or in your country, try ordering some online, asking your store to carry it, or when all else fails, use another vegan cheese you like or omit the cheese altogether.
(makes one 9 inch pie)
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 cups boiling water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 small hot pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped (jalapeño would do well)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
salt and pepper, to taste
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 – 16oz jar salsa
1 bag Daiya Pepperjack Cheese Shreds
1 small tomato, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Vegan sour cream, to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 F and oil the pie pan. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt and cold water. Pour this mixture into the boiling water on the stove. Turn the burner down to medium low heat and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the cornmeal thickens greatly. The consistency should be close to that of a thick paste. Remove from heat and let cool.
Once cooled, add the polenta to the pie pan and using a rubber spatula, spread it across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. You may need to use your hands to work the sides. If you find that the polenta is sticking to your fingers, dip them in water and continue working. You should have a good amount of polenta left (about 1.5 to 2 cups) to use for the topping. Brush the polenta in the pie pan with olive oil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Roll the remaining polenta into a ball with your hands. On a cutting board, roll the polenta into a uniform, thick 6 inch tube, flattening the sides with the palms of your hands. With a knife, cut the polenta tube into 1/2 inch thick slices (about 9 slices). If you need more slices, re-mold the polenta and cut smaller ones. Set the slices aside.
While the crust is baking, saute the garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium high, for about 1 minute. Add the peppers next and saute for about 7 more minutes, until tender. Next add the onions and cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add the hot pepper next and cook for another minute. Then stir in the cumin, chili powder, paprika, mustard powder, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. Add the beans and salsa and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle a small amount of the Daiya Pepperjack Cheese over the polenta crust. Spoon in and spread the vegetable/bean mixture. Top with the polenta slices. Sprinkle more cheese on top and then top with the fresh tomatoes. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with cilantro and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.