Polenta and BeansWritten by Karen on February 3rd, 2010
I know you’re all planning your menus for the big game on Sunday…OK, not ALL of you. Nonetheless, this time of year begs for soups, stews and beans! The beauty of cold, wet weather is that it gives us ‘permission’ to stay inside and create dishes which require low and slow methods. Beans fall into that category, with their pre-soak and longer cook time, enabling the flavors to permeate from the stove to the table.
So where does the Super Bowl fit into this? Well, I was thinking that a nice bowl of chili would be a great halftime dish…so I started perusing my trusty “Heirloom Beans” bible book. And that’s when I came across my favorite bean recipe (of all time?) – Borlotti Beans with Tomatoes over Polenta.
According to the book, the Rancho Gordo borlotti beans are a beautiful dense, velvety bean with a gorgeous pot liquor (KS: is this legal?) Borlotti are in the Cranberry Bean family and they’re believed to have originated in Colombia and then bred in Italy to their exacting standards.
I like these beans for their ‘mushroom’ characteristics and put them in many stew-type dishes. San Marzano are Italian tomatoes that are heartier and more dense than other types. The tomato sauce is ideal prepared in advance, making it perfect for a party…or an evening dinner for two.
Borlotti Beans in Tomato Sauce over Polenta – Serves 4-6
3 TB unsalted butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
3 garlic cloves. minced
4 tsp. fresh chopped oregano (2 tsp. if dried)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 small carrot
One 28-oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes
Salt and pepper
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 cup polenta
2 TB unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan
1/2 cup feta
2 cups cooked* borlotti beans
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
In a medium pot, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion, fennel, garlic, 2 tsp. oregano, red pepper and a pinch of salt. Saute until vegetables are soft and fragrant, approx. 10 minutes. Add carrot and saute 2-3 minutes more. Add tomatoes with their juice, stirring to break up with spoon. Add another pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tomatoes are reduced, at least 1-2 hours. Add remaining oregano and more salt and pepper to taste. Serve on top of polenta. (Can be made up to two days in advance.)
About 25 minutes before serving, bring water to boil in medium-heavy bottomed saucepan, Add salt and whisking continuously, pour polenta into water in thin stream. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly until mixture softens and grains soften. Polenta should pull away from sides of pan, approx. 20 minutes. Stir in butter and 1/2 cup Parmesan; season with fresh pepper.
Add beans to tomato sauce and warm them together over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley about 5 minutes before serving.
Spoon polenta into warmed shallow bowls and make a well in the center of each serving. Spoon tomato sauce into the well. Garnish with feta or Parmesan.
This recipe may have a few more ingredients than my usual posts, but again – it’s low, and slow, and oh-so good.
*Here’s a great video on how to cook the beans.