Tag Archives: vegetarian

Cauliflower Gratin with Leeks and White Cheddar

19 May

I’m pretty well convinced that nothing made with heavy cream can be bad. When I saw this recipe in the New York Times I knew I had to make it, because I happened to have a half a large leek (which I figured was the equivalent of the small leek called for) and a package of white cheddar cheese in my fridge. Of course I had to go out and buy a cauliflower and the heavy cream, but it was worth a little effort! Give it a try — it could be your new definition of “comfort food”!

Ingredients:

1 smallish head cauliflower (about 2 lb), green leaves removed
Olive oil, for drizzling
1 small leek, white and light green part only, very thinly sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
¾ cup heavy cream
6 oz. sharp white cheddar, grated (about 1½ cups)

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Slice cauliflower head lengthwise into half-inch thick slices, including the core and inner leaves. Save any small bits that fall away.

Drizzle olive oil onto the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish (round, oval, square or rectangular). Layer about a third of the cauliflower along the bottom, and about a third of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper and repeat until all the cauliflower and leeks are used. Toss in any “crumbs” of cauliflower you have left on your cutting board.

Season with salt and pepper and drizzle the cream over the cauliflower and leeks. Scatter the cheese on top and season again with salt and pepper. Cover ligjtly with foil and place in the oven.

Bake until the cauliflower is nearly tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cream has thickened and reduced nearly completely and the top is golden brown and crisp, 35 to 40 minutes. If you want a little extra crunch, scatter some breadcrumbs tossed in olive oil over the top after you remove the foil.

Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes before serving

Serves 4

Pasta with Garlicky Spinach and Buttered Nuts

2 May

We invited our son for dinner recently when his financee was out of town. Planning a menu was a challenge. They are both vegan – no dairy, no egg – which I can handle fairly easily. But my son also follows a diet that helps him avoid GERD – gastro-esophageal reflux disease. And that means no onions (though leeks, shallots, and scallions are OK), no peppers of any kind, no tonatoes and nothing acidic, such as vinegar or any kind of citrus. Many spices, inclluding curry and anything deriving from pepper, are taboo. Luckily, garlic is OK (it’s technically on the to-be-avoided-for-GERD list, but he has found he can eat it without ill effect).

I found this recipe in the New York Times not long ago. It’s easy enough to substitute plant-based “butter” or margarine for the real thing (and in fact, our son brought us some he made himself). While our son can’t eat the capers in the recipe, he can eat green olives, so I chopped up a few tablespoons of those (no pimento!) as a substitute. And we decided to use cashews as the nut of choice because we had some roasted and salted on hand. We left out the pepper, and the vegan at the table avoided the Parmesan cheese.

We also served a split-pea soup we made using leeks instead of onions, and plain roasted carrots and broccoli, so it was a colorful, tasty and well-rounded meal.

The recipe says “serves 4” but it can easily stretch for six unless your diners have huge appetites. The three of us ate heartily and we had enough left over for two more servings.

Ingredients:

  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 12 oz. mezze rigatoni or other short pasta
  • ½ cup roasted salted pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts (or cashews), chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. capers, drained
  • 12 oz. fresh spinach, stems trimmed to 1-inch length, or Swiss chard, trimmed and chopped
  • Grated Parmesan for serving

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted weater to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.

After pasta has been cooking for about 2 minutes, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pistachios, garlic and capers and cook, stirring to keep the garlic from scorching, until fragrant, about one minute.

Add spinach to skillet one handful at a time, season with salt, and cook, tossing, until wilted, about 1 or 2 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfter the pasta to the skillet along with a half-cup of the pasta water. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high, tossing until the liquid reduces and coats the pasta, 2 to 3 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, and serve topped with Parmesan.

Serves 4

A new roasted butternut squash soup

2 Nov

A few weeks ago I told you about a humongous butternut squash that I used to make a vegetable dish with onions and za’atar and a vegetarian chili. I froze the rest to use in soup. Well, last week I made the soup, and it is dee-lish! It has fewer spices than many such soups, so the flavor of the squash really comes through.

The recipe is adapted from one by Lindsay Funston, deputy editor at the “delish” online food magazine.

I didn’t have fresh thyme so I used dried. I had only small potatoes so I used three (and because they were “new” potatoes I didn’t peel them). The recipe called for chicken broth but I used vegetable broth, and I found I needed more like 6 or 8 cups, rather than the 4 cups the recipe called for, to get the soup the right consistency; it was still nice and thick.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 3 cups)
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme) — plus more for garnish
6-8 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, toss butternut squash and potatoes with 2 Tbs. olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, 30 minutes.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Season generously with salt, pepper and thyme.

Add the roasted squash and potatoes and then the broth. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Blend until creamy using an immersion blender (or do in small batches in a blender), adding additional brtoth or water if it seems too thick.

Serve garnished with fresh thyme. A dollop of sour cream on top would also be nice.

Serves 6 to 8

Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar

13 Oct

Here is a great recipe from the fabulous Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I love this cookbook, because everything I have made from it has been delicious – but I admit I have not made too many of the recipes because a lot of them are very involved and use a lot of sometimes-hard-to-find ingredients.

This one is relatively simple, and these days, tahini and za’atar (a Middle Eastern herb/spice blend) are relatively easy to find. If you don’t have a Middle Eastern grocery in your area, you can order them online.

The book calls for the squash to be roasted with the skin on. I did not do this because I started with a gigantic butternut squash. In addition to this dish, I made a batch of Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili and froze a bunch of squash cubes to make another soup when the chili is gone. So I used butternut squash cubes instead of wedges and they work perfectly fine. You can save some time and energy by buying pre-peeled and pre-cut squash cubes.

The dish has an interesting combination of flavors, colors and textures. It works well as an appetizer or as a side dish.

I changed the directions slightly, because the onions take less time to roast than the squash, so rather than starting them at the same time, I suggest roasting the squash alone first, then adding the onions.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash (about 2¼ lb.), cut into ¾-in. x 2.5-inch wedges
2 red onions, cut vertically into 1¼-inch wedges
3½ Tbs. olive oil
3½ Tbs. light tahini paste
1½ Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. water
1 small clove garlic, crushed and chopped fine
3½ Tbs. pine nuts
1 Tbs. za’atar
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Put the squash in a large mixing bowl, add 3 Tbs. of the oil, 1 tsp. salt and some black pepper and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast for 30 to 40 minutes (peeled cubes may take a little less time).

After 15 minutes, add the onions, and stir well to get the onions coated with the oil. Stir frequently so everything cooks evenly. When the squash and the onions are fully cooked and have browned somewhat, reove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Make the sauce: place the tahini in a small bowl and add the lemon juice, water, garlic and ¼ tsp. salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.

Put the remaining 1½ tsp. oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and ½ tsp. salt and cook for about 2 minutes until the nuts are golden brown (be careful, because they can burn really easily!) Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.

To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.

Serves 4


Fried Rice

13 Jul

Fried rice

This is more a method than a recipe, so take the amounts given below a little loosely.

Basically this is a great way to use up leftover rice and vegetables — and also chicken or beef, though those are not essential.

In my house, there are usually only two of us for dinner and it’s hard to make some things in small amounts. Stir-fried vegetables is one of those things, since you need a decent variety of veggies, and by the time to slice up even a small amount of half-a-dozen kinds of vegetable,  you’ve got more than you need for two side-dish servings.

Ditto with rice. My go-to rice-making method calls for 1 cup of rice, which makes enough for 4 servings, so we almost always have leftovers.

The other day I served rice and stir-fried veggies and I intentionally prepared more vegetables than I’d need so that I’d have some to use the next day with the leftover rice in a dish of fried rice. I used a small onion (sliced vertically), a few strips of red pepper, a quarter-pound of sliced mushrooms, a small summer squash (sliced), about a cup and a half of snow peas and three stalks of bok choy (sliced).

I also used bean sprouts, but I didn’t add them in with the other vegetables because they cook so quickly and get overcooked easily. When the vegetables for the first night’s dinner were almost done, I took out and set aside half of them for use the next day in the fried rice. Then I added the bean sprouts to my dish of stir-fried veg. and cooked for just a minute or so more The next day, when I made the fried rice, I added some fresh bean sprouts (and also a sliced scallion) to the leftover stir-fried vegetables.

Use any combination of vegetables that appeals to you; good choices include onion, mushrooms, snow peas, red pepper, broccoli, sliced bok choy, zucchini, sliced celery, matchstick carrots. Chop the vegetables into small pices. Stir-fry the veggies according to how much cooking time they need; start with the onion, followed by mushrooms, then do broccoli, red pepper, snow peas, celery, bok choy, carrots, etc. If you use bean sprouts and scallion, add them last because they take next-to-no-time to cook.

Make a thin pancake out of a beaten egg and slice it into threads. Alternately, you can scramble the egg and chop the cooked egg into small pieces.

The fried rice comes together very quickly as you heat a little bit of oil then fry up the cooked rice, the cooked veggies and the egg shreds. Finish with a little soy sauce and you’ve got a great supper!

Ingredients

1 egg
1½ to 2 cups cooked white or brown rice
2 cups chopped mixed stir-fried vegetables
1 cup leftover chicken or thinly-sliced cooked beef (optional)
1-2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 Tbs. soy sauce

Directions

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Whisk the egg, and when the pan is hot, add a few teaspoons of oil and heat for 10 seconds, then add the egg and swirl it into a pancake. When it is firm but not brown, flip it quickly to set the other side and then slide out onto a plate. Roll the flat sheet of egg into a tube and slice. Set aside.

Heat the rest of the oil and add the rice, stirring quickly to coat it with the oil. Add in the vegetables and the chicken or beef if you use it, and the egg slices and stir to heat everything evenly. Add the soy sauce and stir for another minute or so to coat everything in the pan, then serve.

Serves 2

 

Vegetarian chili

5 May

chili vegetarian

Here is a very good social isolation recipe, because it takes a long time to measure out the long list of ingredients and it makes a large amount, so you’ll have enough for several meals. It lasts a long time in the fridge, and it freezes well. So make sure you have everything on hand and start measuring! Once you’ve done that, the cooking is a snap.

You can control the heat mainly by the amount of cayenne pepper; the other spices add more flavor than heat.

The original recipe called for less zucchini and a small eggplant, but we didn’t really like the eggplant in it so we used more zuke. I also don’t care for green pepper so I use two red, yellow or orange peppers.

Ingredients:

2 tsp. kosher salt
¾ tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dry mustard
¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. dried cumin
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 green bell pepper, julienned
4 small zucchini or yellow squash, or some of each (about 1 lb.), cut in 1-inch cubes
4 plum tomatoes, peeled (soak in boiling water for 1 minute; peels slip right off)
1 (14-oz.) can crushed or diced tomatoes
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (or ½ tsp. dried)
1 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tsp. dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Grated rind of half an orange or lemon
2 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. ketchup
⅓ cup oil
3 cans beans (any combination of kidney beans, cannelini beans, black beans, pinto beans, Great Northern beans, black-eyed peas), drained
¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 Tbs. dried)
Optional toppings: chopped red onion, sour cream, shredded Cheddar or Mexican Blend cheese

Directions:

Combine the salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, mustard, cayenne, and cumin in a small bowl. Combine the thyme, rosemary, basil, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce, rind, honey and ketchup in another bowl.

Heat the oil and fry the first group of spices for a few minutes. Add the onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the second group of seasonings, the zucchini, and the tomatoes and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the beans and parsley and cook for another 10 minutes or until the zucchini is soft.

Serve over brown rice to make a complete meal.

Top, if desired, with chopped red onion, sour cream and shredded cheese.

Serves at least 8

Red Curried Tofu

16 Jun

Red curried tofuI hosted a lunch meeting last week and one of the guests was a gluten-free almost-vegan (well, maybe she’d eat one egg, she told me). I figured my best bet would be an Asian vegan dish.

I got this recipe from a magazine – which one I do not know, possibly the late, lamented Cooking Light – and I really like it. It’s fast and easy to make, tasty and healthy. According to the recipe, it has only 292 calories per serving, 7 grams of fat and 3.5 grams of fiber so it’s a good Weight Watchers choice. We don’t like cilantro, so we substitute parsley.

This dish is very flavorful and nicely spicy. The heat comes from the Chinese chili paste, so if you don’t like it hot, use less (or even none) and if you like a lot of heat, use a little more.

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked long-grain white or brown rice
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2½ cups onion, sliced vertically
1 cup yellow or red bell pepper strips
1½ tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs. honey
½ tsp. Chinese chili paste with garlic
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 12-15 oz. package firm or extra-firm reduced fat tofu
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro (or parsley)
¼ cup chopped dry-roasted cashews

Directions:

Drain the tofu and wrap it in a clean dish towel. Place a dish or bowl on top to weight it down slightly and leave it while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Cook the rice as you normally would or according to the package directions.

While the rice is cooking, in a small bowl, combine the curry powder, coriander, turmeric and salt. In another small bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey and chili paste.

Heat sesame and vegetable oils in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper strips and sauté about 4 minutes until tender. Stir in curry, coriander, turmeric and salt, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, then the soy sauce mixture.

Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and add to the skillet. Stir well so that the every piece of tofu is coated with sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for two minutes or until thoroughly heated.

(If you want to prepare this ahead of time, do the tofu mixture first. Reheat it just before you’re ready to serve.)

Serve over rice, and sprinkle the chopped cilantro (or parsley) and chopped cashews on top.

Serves 4

Armenian Stuffed Grape Leaves

8 Jul

grape leavesWe have a bumper crop of grape leaves in our yard, so I just made another batch of these wonderful stuffed grape leaves. The easiest way to tell you about it is to share the post I wrote about them last year for my other food blog, Feed the Spirit. Here it is:

My husband has a wooden swing in the backyard where he likes to hang out on summer afternoons, but it’s right in the sun and can get a little uncomfortable.

To provide some shade, he planted two grapevines next to the swing, one on each side, a couple of years ago, hoping they’d climb up over the swing. I have no idea what kind of grapes they are – one is white, and one is red.

Our grapevine-covered backyard swing.

Our grapevine-covered backyard swing.

Last year we even had two minuscule clusters of grapes, which the birds enjoyed. This year, we had enough to make a couple of pints of grape juice.

But I was also interested in the vines for grape leaves. Living in Detroit, with its large Greek, Chaldean and Arab populations, we’ve been enjoying stuffed grape leaves for decades. They’re often stuffed with lamb, but we eat vegetarian versions. I’ve never made them, but with lush grapevines growing right outside my kitchen window, I thought this was a great time to try.

 

I’d been interested in trying my hand at stuffed grape leaves since last spring, when I participated in a program about food with Jewish and Chaldean (Iraqi Catholic) women. One of the Chaldean women told how almost every cook in her community keeps a large supply of grape leaves on hand.

The women frequently gather in groups to stuff grape leaves, she said, kind of like a Middle Eastern version of a quilting bee.

One family she knows almost got in trouble because of her grape leaves. The family had a house fire, and after the firemen took care of the emergency, they were about to arrest her; they had looked in her freezer, which was full of grape leaves, and thought she was growing marijuana illegally!

Thank you, Joan Nathan!

Joan Nathan

Joan Nathan

What convinced me to finally take action was this video and recipe from Joan Nathan, the doyenne of American Jewish cooking, which showed up in my Facebook feed. Her book, The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, is one of my all-time faves.

I followed her recipe and her directions, and the result was dee-lish! As she says, you don’t need to grow your own grapes or raid a neighbor’s vine; jarred grape leaves, available in any Middle Eastern or specialty grocery store, will do equally well.

These Armenian stuffed grape leaves are super-flavorful, with onions, tomatoes, currants and pine nuts, and a variety of seasonings including mint, dill, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice.

The filling isn’t hard to make; the only fiddly part of the recipe is actually stuffing and rolling the leaves, which was a little challenging to one used to making the much larger stuffed cabbage rolls. It also takes awhile because you need to prepare the filling, then let it cool, then make the rolls, then cook the rolls.

I took them to a holiday lunch at a friend’s house and they were scarfed up in no time!

Joan suggests trying the same stuffing with chard leaves. We had some chard in our garden, so I made a few that way. The taste was great, but the chard leaves, which are long and thin, were actually harder to roll than the grape leaves.

If you make more than you can eat at once, you can freeze them. Put the extra rolls in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to make sure all the rolls are lightly coated with oil, then place them in a plastic freezer bag. Defrost in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients:

One 15-oz. or 1-lb. jar of grape leaves (about 70 leaves) — or 70 fresh grape leaves
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup currants
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup snipped fresh dill
1 Tbs. dried or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 Tbs. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 cup short- or medium-grain rice, uncooked
1 Tbs. sugar
1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes or 1 cup diced canned tomatoes, with juices
2 lemons

Directions:

If you use fresh grape leaves, blanch them for 1 minute in boiling water. then drain. If you use jarred, drain the grape leaves, then carefully unwrap each leaf, remove and discard any stems. Put the leaves in a large bowl with water to cover. Let soak while you prepare the filling.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large covered skillet, and add the onions. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Uncover the skillet and sauté for a few more minutes until beginning to turn golden.

Add the pine nuts, currants, parsley, dill, mint, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, salt, pepper, rice, 1 cup of water, sugar, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until the rice is almost cooked. Remove from heat and stir in the juice of 1 of the lemons, then set aside to cool slightly.

Line the bottom of a heavy 6-quart pot with 10 of the leaves, dull side up.

Put 1 leaf on a flat surface, dull side up, with the stem end toward you. Spoon on 1 tablespoon of filling near the stem end of the leaf and flatten the filling to the width of the leaf. (Editor’s note: I’m sure she means one level measuring-spoon tablespoon; don’t use a soup spoon or you’ll have too much for one leaf. It may be easier to use a teaspoon.) Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold the sides into the center and roll away from you. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.

Arrange the stuffed grape leaves, seam sides down, in rows along the bottom of the lined pot, then stack them on top of each other.

Pour 1 cup of water over the leaves and place a small plate on top to keep the leaves weighted down. Cover the pot and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10 minutes more. Allow to cool in the pot, then drain.

Serve warm or at room temperature as an appetizer, sprinkled with the juice of the remaining lemon and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. If you like, you can also top them with yogurt.

To freeze: drizzle with olive oil and toss lightly to cover all the stuffed grape leaves with a thin film of oil, then pack into a plastic freezer bag or container.

Farmer cheese casserole

5 May

farmer cheese casserole

I bought a package of farmer cheese for Passover because I like to make a matzo-cheese-leek pie. Farmer cheese is kind of like a smooth and dry cottage cheese, a little like feta cheese but not as crumbly and with a less tart taste. Unfortunately, I forgot that my recipe called for half a pound of farmer cheese, and I bought the larger, one-pound package.

After Passover, I had to figure out what to do with the rest of the farmer cheese, so I took a look at what was in my fridge and came up with this recipe.

If you don’t have farmer cheese, you can substitute small-curd cottage cheese (drain it before adding to the rest of the ingredients) or finely crumbled feta cheese.

I had leftover rice so I used a little of that to add starch and thickening, in place of the flour I would normally use. Don’t make rice just for this recipe; use flour instead.

Ingredients:

3 Tbs. butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
half a bell pepper (I used yellow), diced
1 small tomato, chopped
1 10-oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and drained
3 eggs
1 cup farmer cheese
1 oz. cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese, cubed
1/4 cup cooked rice or 3 Tbs. flour
salt and black pepper to taste (the cheese may be salty enough that you don’t need to add any)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano or basil

Directions:

Heat half the butter or oil in a medium skillet and saute the onions and peppers until soft. Add the chopped tomato and spinach, and continue cooking until any liquid is evaporated. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the remaining butter or oil in an 8-inch square baking dish (or use a glass pie plate) and put it in the oven for a few minutes until the butter melts or the oil is heated.

Beat the eggs and add in the farmer cheese and cubed cheese, then the cooked and cooled vegetables, rice or flour, and spices. Mix well.

Pour the melted butter or hot oil into the mixture, and then put everything into the greased baking dish or pie plate.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until firm and slightly browned.

Serves 4

 

Vegetarian Sausage, Bean and Tomato Ragout with Polenta

5 May

Vegetarian Italian sausage, bean and tomato ragoutI clipped this recipe from Cooking Light. It wasn’t meant to be vegetarian, but first of all, it’s hard to find kosher Italian sausage, and secondly, I preferred to make it veggie. Just know that the original recipe called for meat sausage. You could also use soy crumbles instead of veggie sausages, but the taste would be different; the Italian sausage has unique spices.

The original recipe called for instant polenta and plain yogurt, neither of which I had on hand, so I looked up another recipe. Polenta is really bland, so I added a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese, making the entire dish dairy.

There are a lot of ingredients, but the recipe is easy. The ragout recipe says to cook for 8 minutes, but you can keep it simmering while you cook the polenta. (Or you could start the polenta and make the stew during the 30 minutes the polenta cooks over a low flame.)

When you serve the polenta straight from the stovetop, it will be creamy. If you have leftovers, put them in a flat-bottomed container. The polenta will harden. To reuse, you can cut it into slices and fry them up in a little olive oil or butter, or bake them in the oven topped with a sauce (or leftover ragout).

The Cooking Light recipe said it serves 4, but the two of us ate large servings and there was still enough left over for 4 more, so I’m saying it serves 6!

Ingredients:

For the ragout:
6 oz. bulk hot Italian sausage
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup vegetable stock
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Dash crushed red pepper
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano (or 2/3 tsp. dried)

For the polenta:
3 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. fresh rosemary (optional)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 Tbs. butter (optional)

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. If you use real sausage, crumble it in the pan and cook for until browned; remove from pan. Add oil to pain, then saute onions for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add wine, cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen any browned bits. If you use vegetarian sausage, which is pre-cooked, crumble it into the pan now.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer 8 minutes or until slightly thickened. If you browned the sausage at the beginning, add it back in now and heat through.

For the polenta, bring the water and salt to a boil in a 2 or 3-quart saucepan. Add the cornmeal gradually, whisking vigorously as you do so no lumps form. Cook for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently. Lower the heat as low as possible and continue to cook for 20 or 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot when you stir, so the polenta doesn’t stick. Whisk in the rosemary, butter, cheese and rosemary (if you use dry rosemary — use 1/2 tsp. — add it when you put the cornmeal into the water).

Serves 6