Veggie Chili Polenta

It actually snowed on April Fool's Day here, and I found Mother Nature's joke to be completely un-funny. Pair this miserable practical joke weather with the fact that today was sunny and 70, and you have a very difficult week to prepare appropriate recipes for. Do you make soup and hope it's cold? Salad and hope it's not? I'm very big on eating with the weather, at least most of the time, but this week I have more or less thrown the dice and hoped for the best. You could do the same, or you could be more intelligent and make something versatile enough for any weather extreme that this crazy Spring can throw at you. I've found chili to be a good example of this kind of meal, which is one of the reasons why I'm writing tonight about a Veggie Chili Polenta that I made a while back (other reasons include: 1. It's not chicken 2. It's not dessert 3. I'm having leftovers for lunch tomorrow 4. It isn't full of season-specific ingredients that make me feel guilty about telling you about).

This is an easy, essentially one-pot dish, on top of being very delicious. I found it to be slightly sophisticated, with the vinegar adding a nice touch. It's still hearty, but a little creamier than usual and not so heavy. It was a little too salty, a comment I followed up in my notes mysteriously with the phrase "my bad," making me think that I shockingly somehow managed to defy my Salt Nazi compulsions and actually add too much, since there's not much naturally in the ingredients the recipe calls for. Go figure. My only other complaint  (aside from its sad, inability to be captured beautifully in a picture) was a slight monochromatic thing going on, (which, incidentally, did nothing for its photogenic dilemma) with lots of dull reds, yellows and browns. It would certainly look nice with a little side salad, maybe the addition of a brighter green vegetable (spinach anyone? Kale?). 

The chili, by the way, is also excellent by itself, without the polenta. In case you were wondering. It is also fantastic in a chicken and chili casserole I made that same week (perhaps that will be my next post).

Veggie Chili Polenta, courtesy of Real Simple Recipes
Yield: 4 servings

The Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1-2 teaspoons pre-minced)
2 tablespoons chili (or curry) powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup water
15.5 ounces red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15.5 ounces cannellini or great northern beans, drained and rinced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup quick-cooking polenta
1 tablespoon butter (omitted)
green chili or jalapeno salsa, optional (omitted)

The Method
Place the oil, onion, garlic, chili/curry powder, and cumin in a large skillet over medium heat, and saute until the onions have softened. Add in the tomatoes and the water, bring the mixture to a simmer, and partially cover with a lid for 10 minutes.

Add in both types of beans and return the mixture to a simmer. Continue to cook, this time uncovered, until the chili has thickened - approximately 15 minutes more. 

Meanwhile, prepare the polenta according to the package instructions and stir in the butter, if using. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the chili from the heat and stir in the vinegar, then season with salt and pepper. Divide the polenta between 4 bowls and ladle the chili over the top. Serve, optionally, with the salsa spooned on top or with a salad on the side.

One Year Ago: Turkey Turnovers & Passover Rolls (can you believe it was so early last year??)

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