creamy polenta with radish tops, rainbow chard, cannellini beans, poached egg, & parmesan

Sometimes I impulse buy chocolate. Sometimes I impulse buy rainbow chard. Today was a chard day! It just called to me as I walked past it on my way to get eggs.

When I got home, I realized I didn’t have much of a dinner plan. I had a bunch of radish tops left over from last night’s salad, so I wanted to add the greens to the chard. I think swiss/rainbow chard goes well with either Asian or Italian flavors, but we’d been on a 4-day long Asian style dinner kick thanks to this ridiculously good salad dressing from the farmer’s market (Momo dressing – try it if you ever see it. Sooooo goooooood). So Italian is was! I then discovered half a bag of polenta my sister gave me at some point, and an idea came together.

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For the polenta, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil, then salt it and add 1 1/2 cups of polenta, stirring slowly. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir frequently for about 15 minutes until thick. Add a couple tablespoons of butter and salt to taste. I also added a touch of a bouillon cube for more flavor at the end. You could also buy pre-cooked polenta and either heat it up or slice it into circles and pan-fry it.

For the veggies, sauté a chopped red onion for about 5 minutes, then add two cloves of minced garlic and the chopped up stems of the chard. Once the stems were tender, add the leafy parts of the chard and radish greens (optional) and season with salt and a little vegetable bouillon (also optional). Finally add the cannellini beans at the end just to heat them.

While everything was cooking, I asked my husband if he thought a poached egg on top would go well. He looked at me like I’d asked whether air conditioning might be a good idea on a 105 degree day. We have these cool little silicone egg cups called Poachpods for this purpose (because I suck at poaching without them). I highly recommend them – they’re worth the $10.

So, to put everything together, start with a layer of polenta on the plate, then a big scoop of the radish tops/chard/cannellini beans. Scoop out a little hole in the center, and drop in your poached egg. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, a little extra salt & pepper or red pepper flakes if you want, pop that yolk, and enjoy!

Note: this meal did end up having more of a winter feel to it (i.e. we had to turn on all the fans in the room halfway through because we were overheating), but I’m always cold, so no complaints here!

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vegan “spaghetti & meatballs”

There is no spaghetti in this recipe, nor are there any meatballs. But if you’re in the mood for something with the same sort of flavor without all the weight of a bowling ball in your tummy afterwards, try this healthier alternative! (Note: the “meatballs” don’t really taste like meatballs; I’d say they’re closer to falafel, but if you’re not expecting a meaty taste you won’t be disappointed).

I’ve been really into this vegan recipe website Oh She Glows lately. That’s where I got the idea for the “meatballs” – Italian Bean Balls really. Not only are her recipes awesome and creative, but the food photography is outstanding, and she’s all self-taught. Ok, so onto the bean balls!

Preheat the oven to 350. Take 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts and either toast in the oven for 7-9 minutes until fragrant or pan-toast (this is what I did) & set aside in a bowl. Put 3/4 cup oats into a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse flour, then add to the bowl with the walnuts. Add 1 cup shredded carrot, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1/3 cup chopped basil (I used a little extra), about 2 large finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, and 3 large minced garlic cloves. Stir. Then drain and rinse a 15-oz can of kidney beans and toss them into the food processor until finely chopped and stir them into the bowl with the mixture. In a mug or little bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp ground flax seed and 3 tbsp warm water and let it sit for 15-20 seconds, then stir into the mix. Add 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp oregano, 3/4 tsp salt, some ground pepper, and (optional) a dash of red pepper flakes. Shape the mixture into 18-20 balls (golf-ball size), packing them tightly between your hands. Place onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes on each side.

I served mine with zucchini “noodles” but you could also do spaghetti squash – I didn’t, only because we just had spaghetti squash a few days ago. If you go the spaghetti squash route, just cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and strings, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake face down on parchment paper at 375 for about 45 minutes. Then scoop out the contents, and add your toppings. For the zucchini noodles, use a mandolin with a tooth attachment (or grater, or food processor with some kind of shredding attachment) to create long ribbons of raw zucchini. Then either stir fry or microwave (about 2-3 minutes) until tender!

We had our “noodles” and bean balls with our favorite Arrabiata tomato sauce from Russo’s, a little Italian shop down the street. We’re completely obsessed with their homemade sauces. And if you’re not vegan, a little grated asiago cheese on top really takes it up a notch. So good…

Zucchini "noodles" with Italian bean "meatballs"

Zucchini “noodles” with Italian bean “meatballs”


borlotti bean mole w/ roast winter squash

     My fellow residents of the northeast will probably agree that it’s been a strange winter, weather-wise. On Friday, the temperature got above 50, and I had to take off my scarf and gloves on my bike ride home from work because I was overheating. Two days later of course, today, it’s back into the 20’s and the wind is whipping around at 26 miles an hour. It’s a perfect day to make a hearty winter stew-type dinner, and I have just the right recipe I’ve been wanting to try.
     Edamam (not edamame/soybeans) may be one of my favorite discoveries of 2012. It’s a website (and an iphone app) that features over a million recipes, and you can search for certain ingredients and filter your results by diet or preference, such as “dairy-free” for example. I follow them on Facebook, and there’s always something delicious-looking popping up in my feed that I want to try. This week, I saw a recipe featured by Edamam that happens to come from one of my go-to food blogs, 101 Cookbooks, for Borlotti Bean Mole with Roast Winter Squash. I’ve always wanted to make mole sauce and my dad makes an amazing one, but every time he starts telling me how to make it, I remember how labor intensive it is, and think “maybe another time…” But this recipe sounded like a great way to get that mole flavor without your typical 20-30 ingredients and all-day time commitment (although this is not a quick fix meal, so if you’re like me, save it for a weekend).
     Start by soaking 1 1/2 cups of dry borlotti beans (same as cranberry beans, or you can use pinto beans) overnight in a good sized pot or bowl filled with water. I actually didn’t plan far enough ahead and only soaked mine today for about 5 hours, but you can make up for it by simmering them a little longer. After they’ve soaked, rinse them, and bring them to a boil with water that covers them by about an inch. Then reduce the heat, cover, and let them simmer for about 45 minutes. It’s ok to have them be a little under-cooked because they’ll be in the oven later. Preheat the oven to 350. Peel and cube a winter squash of your choice (I used an acorn squash) and roast the cubes in a pan with olive oil until the edges are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Melt 2 tbsp butter (or use olive oil, or a combination of the two) into a heavy pot (if you have a pot that can go from stove to oven and has a lid, use that) and fry 1 medium chopped onion and 2-4 red jalapenos (depending how spicy you want it) that have been seeded and chopped, for about 20-30 minutes on low heat. Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic and fry for another 3 minutes. Then add a pound of fresh chopped plum tomatoes (or a 14 oz can- I like San Marzano) and 2 tsp of paprika. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins. Add an ounce of dark roasted almonds, ground (you can use a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or small food processor), 2 oz of 70% dark chocolate broken into pieces, 1 tsp salt, the beans & squash, and 4-5 large chopped kale leaves. Stir until the chocolate is melted. I also added a little water at this point because it became too thick to stir. If your casserole pot can go from stovetop to oven, just put the lid on and throw it in. If not (like me!), transfer what’s in your pot on the stovetop to an oven proof casserole dish, cover with tin foil, and bake for about 2 hours at 250.
     Serving notes: I thought it definitely needed more salt at the end, and more heat – red pepper flakes, hot sauce, or your choice of spice. The beans really soak up the heat. The original recipe says to serve with tortillas, polenta, or mashed potatoes. I think mashed potatoes would be FAR too mushy for this already soft dish. We actually liked blue tortilla chips with it, to scoop with, and also crushed up on top to add a little texture. And as a side note, this is not the prettiest looking finished product, but not only is it delicious, but it also makes 4 big servings for just under $20! A bargain, plus leftovers!
Borlotti Bean Mole w/ Roast Winter Squash

Borlotti Bean Mole w/ Roast Winter Squash