Sunday, November 27, 2011

Smoky Greens and Beans over Polenta

When it's cold outside, I crave hearty meals like this one. A hot, buttery, cheesy bowl of polenta topped with hearty greens and creamy beans is the perfect comfort food for the dark days of winter-balanced and nutritious, but still rich and savory, and just plain soul-satisfying. I've been in a bit of rut lately with kale, pretty much just roasting it every chance I get (see here, here, here, and here) because, as is so often the case, I get a little obsessed with a particular ingredient or preparation. And while I'd never turn down some roasted kale, I like to broaden my horizons a little bit and try something different. I've made a soup similar to ribollita with kale and white beans in the past and really enjoyed it, and this dish keeps the delicious, classic combination of white beans and kale, uniting them with velvety polenta. It's not quite a stew, but whatever you'd like to call this dish, it's a pure bowl of cold weather comfort. Don't have any polenta? The kale and bean mixture would still be delicious over barley, rice, or even pasta. Not a fan of kale? Spinach would make a fine substitute, though the cooking time for the greens would be drastically reduced. Hopefully this recipe will provide a little inspiration for your winter menu, when it's all too easy to get stuck in a meat-and-potatoes rut.

Smoky Kale and Beans over Polenta
adapted from Bon Appetit, via Epicurious
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 141/2-ounce can vegetable broth
8 ounces coarsely chopped kale
1 15-ounce can cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup polenta (I like Bob's Red Mill)
3 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving

1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and paprika; stir 1 minute. Add broth and greens; bring to boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until greens are wilted and tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans and simmer 1 minute to heat through. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2. Meanwhile, bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium pot over medium to medium-high heat. Slowly add polenta, stirring constantly, and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Remove from heat, stir in butter and Parmesan cheese, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide polenta between four bowls and top each with one-fourth of the bean and kale mixture. Grate additional Parmesan cheese over the top, if desired, and serve hot.

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