One of my favorite things about living in London is the ability to travel within Europe fairly easy. The train ride is a little over 2 hours to get from London to the gorgeous city of Paris so last weekend my husband, Mark, and I went to Paris. This was our second trip to Paris. On our first trip we hit up most of the top spots, such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral, so this time around we decided to have no plan at all. We spent most of the time just walking around, visiting street markets, drinking good wine, and eating excellent food. I can’t complain… I love my life! My favorite meal the whole trip was at Willi’s Wine Bar where I got a delicious mushroom and white bean ragout with creamy polenta. As with most meals I am obsessed with, I started re-creating my own version as soon as I got home. Only a few days later and I proudly created a version of this light but flavorful dish that will be a regular in my kitchen from here on out. Bon appetit!
A ragout is French in origin and simply means a hearty main-dish stew. Typically ragouts are served with a grain, such as rice, pasta, or polenta. Polenta is made from yellow-golden cornmeal and thickens in boiling water. It is sometimes referred to as “Italian grits” and can be used as a base for sauces and ragouts, much like pasta. Since polenta is made from corn, it is a great gluten-free substitute for most wheat, rye or barley side dishes. Cornmeal is sold as a refined grain or whole grain, depending if the outer parts of the grain are removed during processing. The outer parts of the grain, the germ and bran, provides you with protein, iron, fiber, B vitamins and other nutrients so you want to make sure they are still intact and you are getting the whole grain. Bob’s Red Mill makes an excellent whole grain cornmeal.
White Bean & Mushroom Ragout with Creamy Parmesan Polenta
makes 4 servings
Creamy Parmesan Polenta
4 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup coarse whole grain cornmeal (polenta)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated reduced fat Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon each: sea salt and pepper
White Bean & Mushroom Ragout
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, sliced
3 small leeks, white and tender green parts only, cleaned and sliced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms (may substitute for another variety of mushrooms)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine *see recipe note below
1/4 cup water
1.5 cups cooked butter beans or other variety of white bean (about 1 can, rinsed and drained)
sea salt and pepper to taste
Bring water, butter and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Whisk in the polenta in a thin stream and constantly stir for 3-4 minutes to remove any lumps. Reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally (about every 5 minutes), for 45 minutes until polenta is smooth and creamy. Add more water during the process if polenta gets too thick. Also, polenta tends to “burp” and shoot out at you while cooking so be careful.
While polenta is cooking, heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, leeks, red pepper flakes, thyme, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until onions start to soften. Add carrots and cook for additional 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid from the mushrooms is soaked up. Stir in tomato paste, wine, water, and beans and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until the sauce has slightly reduced and the beans are heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
Once the polenta has cooked for 45 minutes, stir in the milk, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Keep warm until it is ready to serve. When cooked polenta is cooled it gets lumpy and hard so keep warm before serving.
Serve warm mushroom and butter bean ragout with creamy parmesan polenta.
Recipe Note: You may substitute dry white wine with white grape juice, apple juice, or nonalcoholic white wine if you prefer.
Nutrition facts per serving: 389 calories, 13 g total fat, 706 mg sodium, 49 g total carbohydrates, 12 g fiber, 15 g protein
BALANCE IT OUT: This elegant meal is entirely balanced on its own! However, I did add some fresh arugula for additional color and nutrition.