I’m late to the party. (What’s new? I know.)
To be honest, I didn’t even know I liked soft polenta, but it is pretty wonderful, particularly mixed with generous amounts of butter and grated asiago (or parmesan) cheese.
In this dish, the polenta is topped with a savory fennel, garlic and tomato-sauced bean stew spiced with just enough red pepper flakes to keep things interesting.
Enjoy! This is true comfort food, and, believe me, you do need tidings of comfort and joy during these last days of the holiday season.
Why? It’s tense-tense-tense out there, people.
You need to keep your strength (and spirits) up for all the sharp elbows you are sure to encounter during your last-minute holiday shopping sprees not to mention the mortal combat of vying for scarce parking spots at the mall.
Holiday “spirit,” after all, means different things to different people.
My favorite story of holiday “good will’ this season comes from my neighbors Sarah and Gene who recently were the victims of road rage.
Not on PCH or the 405.
No. No. No.
They were victims while in line to pick up a prescription refill at the drive-up window at the Walgreens. (Real story. You can’t make this stuff up.)
In their case, the impatient guy behind them in the Walgreens’ line blasted them with his horn because he didn’t think they were collecting their prescription fast enough and then, to add insult to injury, gave them a rude hand gesture as they exited the drive-up lane. Sleigh bells ring…
Hope he was picking up a way-big supply of Xanax.
- Tomato Sauce
- 3 T. unsalted butter
- 1/2 medium yellow onion (chopped)
- 1 medium fennel bulb (trimmed and chopped)
- 3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- 4 t. chopped fresh oregano
- 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
- 1 small carrot (peeled and shredded)
- One 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes (or plum tomatoes)
- Freshly-ground pepper
- 2 C. drained cooked cranberry (or borlotti beans--I used Rancho Gordo cranberry beans)
- 1/3 C. fresh flat-leaf parsley (chopped)
- 4 C. water
- 1 t. salt
- 1 C. polenta
- 2 T. unsalted butter
- 1/2 C. freshly-grated Asiago cheese (plus more for garnishing)
- Freshly-ground pepper
- Chopped parsley and additional shredded cheese for garnish (and maybe a pinch of cayenne pepper)
- Prepare the sauce in a heavy pot. Melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the onion, fennel, garlic, 2 t. oregano, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt in the melted butter for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and fragrant. Add the shredded carrot and continue sautéing the mixture for two more minutes. Add the tomatoes (I broke the tomatoes up with my hands before mixing them into the stew. You can chop the tomatoes if you aren't feeling particularly like a hands-on experience.) Add a pinch more salt and simmer the mixture over a low- low heat (uncovered) for 2-3 hours. You will want the tomatoes to begin separating from the oil.
- When the tomato mixture is cooked, add the remaining chopped oregano and additional salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooked beans.
- While the tomato/bean mixture is cooking, make the polenta. Bring water to a boil. Add the salt to the water. Whisk the polenta into the water in a steady stream. (You don't want lumps! Yuck.) Reduce the heat and cook over a low heat until the polenta mixture thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. This will take 40-45 minutes. Stir in the butter and the Asiago. Season with pepper. Cover to keep warm until you are ready to serve the polenta topped with the bean stew.
- Garnish with grated cheese and chopped parsley and a pinch of cayenne if you are feeling wild.
This is an adaptation of a recipe that appeared on the Kitchn site. Here is the link: Borlotti Beans in Tomato Sauce with Creamy Polenta