I meant to write this post last week. Oops.
I wasn't intending to make a Mexican type meal for Cinco de Mayo last week but it ended up happening. The night before I had started a pot of polenta and simmered and mashed some black beans but by the time I was done I wasn't hungry anymore so I stuck them in the fridge and decided to wait.
I had never made polenta before so I didn't really know what to expect. I took a cup of cornmeal and threw it in some boiling water with some cumin, chipotle powder, cayenne and garlic and simmered it for about 15 minutes. I then put it in an 8x8 pan to set up in the fridge so I could slice and fry it. I started frying them in oil in a skillet but it wasn't working out very well so I busted out the electric counter top skillet and sprayed with a little canola. Other than the slight malfunction I ran into when I was trying to run it at the same time as the microwave on the same outlet and tripped the fuse it went really easily. They crisped up on the outside much better than they were turning out on the stove.
I also had a huge can of black beans that I cooked up with tons of sauteed garlic, onion and cumin. After letting them simmer for awhile I took about half and gave them a whirl in the food processor to mash them up into more of a refried bean consistency.
The beans and polenta would have been an awesome dinner as is but I took it up another level with a cashew cream sauce. I had about a cup of cashews that had been soaking overnight, I whipped them up in the VitaMix with some water, salt, lime juice, lime zest and cilantro. It did come out a little thinner than I would have liked but it's my own fault, I added a little too much water but it came out great either way. Lime and cilantro both have such fresh bold flavors and once they are combined with the creamy coolness of the cashews you are left with a refreshing cream sauce perfect for topping any sort of Mexican or Latin inspired dish.
I even found the motivation to make dessert and wanted to keep with the Cinco de Mayo theme so I decided on Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes complete with cayenne pepper! I have never tried a chocolate cupcake with cayenne and never thought I would make them either but I am so glad I did. I used a basic vegan chocolate cupcake recipe and added some cinnamon, nutmeg and almost a teaspoon of cayenne. Topped only with powdered sugar and cocoa powder they look like an innocent little treat and at first bite they taste that way too. Give it a second and you can taste and feel the spice coming through. They aren't spicy in the way that you will start sweating or feel like your tongue is burning, its more like a gentle kick to your taste buds.