When we lived in Chicago we had an apartment in the East Rogers Park neighborhood just down the street from The Heartland Cafe, which remains one of my favorite restaurants to this day. The other day my husband reminded me of the Cornbread Stuffing that used to be on their menu and I had to try to recreate a vegan version of it because it's been over 5 years since I've had it. I often used to order a side of the cornbread stuffing and a side salad for lunch, and now I can recreate that wholesome lunch anytime I want.
I suggest vegetables to use, but you could replace ingredients as you like. If you don't want hot peppers use a green bell pepper or diced zucchini. You could add corn kernels, black beans, cilantro, whatever you want. It would be nice topped with some salsa or avocado slices as well. I suggest using water or vegetable broth for the liquid or a combination. I do this because sometimes I have a little vegetable broth left over in the fridge and cooking grains is a great way to use it up as well as flavor your dish.
When I used to order this at The Heartland, it came looking like it had been scooped with an ice cream scooper, so that is one good way to serve it. You could also pour it into an oiled 9 x 13 inch baking dish and let it thicken in the fridge and then cut slices and pan sear them to serve.
Lastly, if you're ever in Chicago, take the Red Line up to the Morse/Lunt stop and have a delicious meal at The Heartland Cafe right outside the Lunt exit, you won't regret it!
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, diced
1/2 a red onion, diced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano or anaheim pepper, diced
2 jalapenos, cut into thin rounds
1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced
4 c. water or vegetable broth or a combination
1 1/2 c. coarse cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. chile powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 c. vegan cheese (optional)
1) Prep all of your ingredients by chopping the vegetables and measuring out the liquids, spices and cornmeal.
2) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add all of the chopped vegetables. Saute until softened, about 10-15 minutes. When the vegetables have softened remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
3) Once the vegetables are done cooking heat the water and/or broth in a large soup pot (a 4 or 5 quart pot would be large enough). When the liquid comes to a boil slowly add the cornmeal and spices as you whisk constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to whisk the mixture for 8-10 minutes until it is thick and creamy. (Note: I recommend not cooking the vegetables at the same time as the cornmeal because the cornmeal needs to be whisked constantly or it will bubble and splatter all over the place).
4) Once the cornmeal is thick and no longer crunchy add the sauteed vegetables and stir to incorporate. Then add the vegan cheese if you are using it and continue to stir until the cheese is melted.
5) Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture thicken, it should be almost the consistency of a wet cornbread.
I'd say this makes 6-8 large servings.