Author, food lover, and traveler Jen Sotolongo is a whiz at whipping up vegan recipes that can be made just as easily at a campsite as in a fully stocked kitchen. She recently spent a few years bike touring Europe and South America with her partner, building recipes along the way. Like this one for Mexican polenta. Simple, delicious, nutritious.
This dish comes together in a snap and is perfect for those long days on the road when you don’t want to cook, but there’s nothing around and you gotta eat. It took several months of seeing polenta on the grocery store shelves throughout Chile before breaking down and buying some for our meals. I don’t have an aversion to polenta. Not at all. I love polenta, but for some reason, I just don’t cook with it very often. But all that has changed now since I whipped up this Mexican Polenta Bowl while visiting Parque Patagonia, one of Doug Tompkins’ parks along the Carretera Austral in Chile.
Polenta is a perfect cycle touring food. It’s filling. It’s quick to make. It’s versatile. Best of all, it comes together in a snap. An easy sauté of the veggies and 15 minutes cooking the polenta and dinner is ready.
• 1 cup polenta
• 4 cups water
• 1 teaspoon of salt
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the vegetables
• 1 yellow onion diced
• 2 cloves of garlic minced
• 1 hot pepper whatever kind you like, depending on how spicy you like things, minced
• 1 green bell pepper diced
• 1 tablespoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
• 1 cup of tomatoes about 2-3 tomatoes, depending on the size
• 1 15- oz can of black beans drained and rinsed
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Bring water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add the salt and olive oil.
• Add the polenta in a stream (as shown in photo), turn the heat down to low and stir frequently with a wooden spoon. • • Cover when not stirring and prepare your vegetables in between stirring. I’m too impatient to allow the polenta to cook for longer than 15 or so minutes, but if you want to leave it for longer, it will get creamier.
• Set aside and cover while you cook your vegetables.
• Sauté onion, garlic, and hot pepper together in a pan. Stir frequently until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
• Add the pepper and sauté another 4-5 minutes.
• Add the cumin and chili powder and stir until everything in the pan is coated, about 1 minute.
• Add the tomatoes along with the black beans and 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes have released some of their juices.
• Serve over the polenta in a bowl and top with sliced avocado.
If the polenta solidifies by the time your veggies have finished, return to heat and add a bit of water and stir.