creamy sweet potato polenta with vegetables, tamari and pumpkin seeds

this just makes sense to me. for one thing, in my culture, breakfasts are often cookedand savoury. and dim sum would be my first meal of the day, every day, if possible. so why did it take me so long to come around to having a hot, savoury breakfast on weekday mornings?

partly because of time–i can barely get myself to work on time as it is, so taking 10 extra minutes to cook at breakfast wasn’t an option. the alternative would be to make something ahead of time and reheat it in the mornings, but as i’ve mentioned before, i avoid batch cooking on sundays and this weekday morning prep is an exception to my rule. not that it took long to steam some sweet potato (10 minutes) or fry some kale and cabbage (7 minutes). still, after seeing mark bittman’s video on savoury breakfasts and trying simple scallions and grains for breakfast one weekend, i’ve been thinking about a way to make my workday breakfast more satisfying. but ultimately, the reason i’ve really come back to this idea, was the weather. it’s damn cold out this week and the idea of having something warm and tasty for breakfast is very appealing, don’t you agree?

toasted pumpkin seeds red cabbage and scallions steamed sweet potato

kale and red cabbage

so, since i was making that exception and spending a few minutes cooking on sunday to make a batch of breakfasts, i had the opportunity to be a little more creative about it. i loved the simpleness of grains, scallions and soy sauce from my bittman-inspired attempt, but adding sweet potatoes to the polenta and more vegetables to the dish makes for a healthier and even more substantial meal. what vegetables you use, is up to you. you know i can’t get enough kale and in fact, i like the kale and polenta combo, and the red cabbage was cheap and pretty. huh. i just realized these are the same motives, respectively, that keep me shopping for jeans constantly and led me to buy so much at uniqlo in new york that i almost needed extra luggage to bring it all home.

so starting monday i’m going to scoop out a bit of polenta into a bowl, and add some water to it before warming it up (the polenta isn’t going to remain creamy for more than 20  minutes after it’s cooked). then i’ll mix it all together, add some veggies and warm that up for a few seconds more, before topping it with the seeds and tamari. if you don’t have tamari, use soy sauce. it’s just a small amount but to me, it’s an essential component. you could substitute hoisin sauce, if you like your breakfast even sweeter than the sweet potato makes this, or any other hit of sauce or flavoring you like. unless your favourite sauce is ketchup. (i’m looking at you, james.)

creamy sweet potato polenta with vegetables, tamari and pumpkin seeds.

as good for dinner as it is for breakfast. substitute your favourite vegetables or even your favourite grain and cook as you would normally.

1/4 c pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
5 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 bunch lacinato (flat leaf) kale (about 6 packed cups), trimmed and chopped
1/4 head red cabbage (about 3 packed cups), trimmed and chopped
1 cup cornmeal (not quick cook polenta*)
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp + 1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
tamari or soy sauce

steam the sweet potato until soft, about 10 minutes. transfer to a bowl and mash well. set aside.

in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. add most of the scallions to the oil, reserving a small handfull of the darker green pieces. fry for 2 minutes or until the scallions start to soften. add the cabbage to the skillet, mix well and fry for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. add all of the kale, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/8 tsp of pepper and mix well. fry for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the cabbage and kale are just wilted and cooked through but do not overcook them. they should still have a tiny bit of bite. set aside.

bring 4 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt to a boil in a saucepan. add the cornmeal in a thin stream while whisking. continue to whisk for one minute. reduce heat to low and cover, and allow the polenta to simmer for 5 minutes. uncover and stir well with a wooden spoon, cover and repeat after 5 minutes. remove from heat, add sweet potato mash and mix well to combine. 

sprinkle reserved raw scallions when serving or add to kale and cabbage before refrigerating.

to serve immediately: scoop 1/2 cup of polenta mixture into a bowl. make a small well and add 1/4 tsp tamari. serve kale and cabbage on the side, and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and a few reserved raw scallions.

to serve for breakfast: (refriger
ate vegetables, seeds and polenta mixture separately.) add 1/2 cup polenta to a microwave-safe bowl. add 1/8 cup water and heat. stir polenta to make a creamy mixture and absorb all of the water. add a scoop of vegetables and heat for a few seconds more. top with pumpkin seeds and drizzle 1/4 tsp of tamari on top.

*if using quick-cook polenta, cook according to instructions, then add the mashed sweet potatoes.

serves 4-5.