Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fennel with beans and tomato over polenta -- yum

Here's an easy and delicious vegetarian one-dish dinner, so full of flavor that I can't imagine anyone missing meat. For protein, white beans and a sprinkling of your favorite cheese does the trick. The combo of ingredients makes for a nice pairing with either red or white wines. All you need is some crusty whole-grain bread and you've got a healthy, complete meal.
This recipe is for two, but can be doubled. I use the log style of polenta, slicing it about 1 1/2 inch thick and pan-frying it in a non-stick skillet with just a thin coat of olive or canola oil.

Recipe: Fennel with White Beans and Tomatoes over Polenta

1 roll of polenta, sliced and sauteed in a nonstick pan (set aside and keep warm)
2 T olive or canola oil
1 large bulb fennel: half of it cut into wedges, the other half coarsely diced
1 cup chopped celery and onion
2 T chopped garlic
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
2 cups diced tomatoes, preferably with no salt added
Pinch of saffron (optional)
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups pre-washed fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup grated cheese, or more if you want

Heat oil in a large, deep sided skillet over medium heat. Add chopped celery and onion along with the diced fennel. Stir frequently as the veggies soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in fennel, cover the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove cover, add garlic and broth or water and stir-fry for another couple of minutes until the fennel wedges have softened.
Add tomatoes and seasoning (saffron, if using, thyme, salt and pepper), stirring well. Cover again and let the flavors blend for about 2-3 more minutes. Add beans and spinach, cover pan and let spinach wilt, about 3 minutes.
Place polenta slices on plates, spoon bean mixture over the polenta and sprinkle with cheese. Pass more cheese at table, if desired.

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