Thursday, January 7, 2010

Beans and Polenta -- Healthy Comfort Food

When the days are short, the temperatures cold, and the snow is piling up outside -- as it is in Cincinnati as I write today, try this hearty dish that's filling, comforting and very good for you.
The beans are fiber-packed and full of vitamins and micronutrients, there's lycopene in the tomatoes, and more fiber and vitamins in the other veggies. Polenta gives you the carbs to help you feel full. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese for added calcium and protein.

Recipe: Beans, tomatoes and mixed vegetables over polenta
(Serves 4)
2 ½ cups diced or chopped aromatic vegetables*
½ cup chopped red pepper
3 T canola or olive oil
1 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 18-ounce can cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
2 T chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper or ground chipotle chili (optional)
¼ cup lightly chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)

* Any combination of onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, carrots and/or celery

Heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan; add aromatic vegetables and red pepper; cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
Add mushrooms and 2-3 T of water, cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover, stir, cover again and cook for 5 more minutes.
Add beans, tomatoes and thyme, stir well and cook until heated through.
Add spinach and seasonings, stir until spinach is wilted.
For polenta: I use the “log” style of polenta found in the International (or Italian) section of most grocery stores. Slice into rounds about one to one-and-a-half inches thick, then sauté in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. If you want a golden color, sauté in a stainless steel or cast iron pan with a little canola or olive oil.

You can also serve the bean dish over pasta or brown rice.

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