Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili Over Polenta Fries Night Owled with The Miami, Astronauts, etc., Example and Substantial
Every once in a while, usually after a late night of communist Russia dancing, I find myself seated in the dining room of a hole-in-the-wall diner. While definitely serving an important purpose in night owl society these diners usually aren’t loaded with vegetarian food. And when they do have vegetarian options, they aren’t always adequately stocked. None of this would matter if the one thing that always catches my eye, chili fries, fell into the vegetarian category. Pile your menu with meat and meat based gravies, I don’t care, just offer a pile of nice vegetarian chili fries. Alas, it doesn’t happen. In fact, I’ve never found a restaurant that offers a vegetarian version of this greasy diner staple. Perhaps you know one?
Anyway this dish, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili Over Polenta Fries, was partially inspired after one of those unsuccessful attempts to wrangle vegetarian chili fries from a meat loaded menu. It was also inspired by my working on a strict food budget this summer. I had a number of job opportunities that fell through so I have worked diligently to make my teaching money last until the school year starts up again. That means less exotic ingredients and more focus on things like beans and corn meal, both cheap, filling ingredients that can inspire three to four different meals per bag. The sweet potatoes and Florida avocados were courtesy of the local farmer’s market which made them much more affordable than at a grocery store chain.
I used this recipe from Green Lite Bites for the chili, minus the cilantro, cheese and red pepper flakes.
-2 cups vegan milk
-2 cups water
-1 1/2 to 2 cups corn meal
1. Pour the milk and water into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta while stirring to ensure that clumping does not occur. Start with the lower amount of corn meal and add more to thicken, if necessary.
2. Toss in a few pinches of salt until it meets your individual taste. I have seen some people add Parmesan cheese so if this is for you, add it now.
3. Continue stirring the polenta until it thickens. Remove it from heat and pour it onto a baking sheet. Flatten the polenta until it is about 1/2 an inch thick.
4. Place the polenta in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the polenta into “fry” shapes. Brush each “fry” with olive oil and sprinkle more salt on top (if necessary). Bake the fries for ten minutes. Flip and bake them for another ten minutes.
6. Line a plate with the “fries” and scoop spoonfuls of sweet potato chili on top. Take it to your barn (or your most run down room in the house) and invite a few of your drunkest friends over to give you the real hole-in-the-wall diner feel. I also rented a “waitress” but that is just me.
Last summer I enjoyed some African-American slave songs re-imagined by a couple of New Yorkers under the moniker The Miami. Almost a year later the band is still doing their thing. They have now joined forces with a number of other band friends including Battle Ave, The Coasts, The New Diet, Time Travels, Elijah & the Moon, Just Kids, The Wiggle Room, RFUP and Hiding Behind Sound to form the SubFamily Alliance. The Alliance released a free summer sampler last month that I already dipped into once (The New Diet on this playlist). The Miami’s track on the album is their reinterpretation of the traditional hymn “Kneebone.” Get the sampler free, here:
Astronauts, etc. is the solo project of Anthony Ferraro, a Berkeley Student who was prevented from playing classic piano due to arthritis. His solo approach is one of supermelodic pulp (which will also be the name of his debut album scheduled for release on September 8th). The band’s new single “Mystery Colors” paints a dreampop picture using shades of crooning male vocals, floating over a bed of simple organ and drum machine sounds. The end result is one of isolation, space and introspection.
Example’s new single “Say Nothing” is the sweat to Astronauts, etc. tears. It is euphoric and bittersweet in a way that screams look at me, I will not be ignored. While “Mystery Colors” is perfectly fine sitting in the corner “Say Nothing” wants to be the center of attention. The Evolution of Man, the band’s fourth album, is due out November 18th.
The new video:
“Check My Resume” by Substantial (produced by Oddisee) is perfect for those people that consistently had jobs fall through and needed to budget their money accordingly. We’re better than this, check our resumes. We are qualified. Samples that are catchy as hell and some old school scratching more than make up for those few rough rhymes. Home is Where the Art Is will be in stores on September 4th.