Overcoming fears, polenta edition

Beans on toast: a hallmark of sad British cooking. Also, delicious (see: New Yorker cartoon). It’s a staple of our Sunday brunches (chile garlic sausage, beans on toast with malt vinegar and tabasco,  mediocre coffee). Beans + carb = yum, so why not baked beans and polenta?

Sorry, I didn't remember the camera until a few bites in

Sorry, I didn't remember the camera until a few bites in

Now, a little back story. In the past year I have developed a fear of polenta. I have absolutely no idea why. We’ve had a package of it in the cupboard for months and months, and I never knew what to do with it. My protein tends to the Asian, and it always struck me as an odd accompaniment to food involving soy sauce. But one weekend morning I was feeling so damn chipper (the sun was shining, it does powerful things to me) I thought I’d give it a go.

Baked beans and polenta? It was ok. The beans were reduced salt and sugar – any sweeter and I don’t think it would have worked at all. But the polenta itself was creamy and satisfying – and a treat fried later in the afternoon. And I was on to something with this bean and polenta combo. All week I pondered a reprise. I googled black beans and polenta, and kept coming back to a casserole that involves ‘polenta rounds’. What in the world is a polenta round? Undettered at around 5 last Saturday I just gave up and went my own way: polenta and black beans with broccoli rabe on the side.

Oh my god it was good. And meat-free! And how awesome is it that black beans smell so meaty?

Polenta and rabe and beans, oh my!

Polenta and rabe and beans, oh my!

For the polenta I opted for this corn cake recipe from epicurious and ignored the mushroom part. Also, I used defrosted frozen corn and a mature cheddar and, while I wasn’t measuring I feel safe in saying it was well over 2 ounces. I got a bit nervous about how thick it was when it came to a boil and probably added too much liquid. But whatever. It was incredible. Every time I bit into a kernel of hot, sweet corn I made tasty food noises, which I really never do.

Jesse and the all important "drain" stage

Jesse and the all important "drain" stage

And the beans, oh the beans! I played around with this recipe with cider vinegar and it was fantastic (tips: use more oregano, add the vinegar near the end).

In all honesty, the rabe deserves a guest post because I didn’t make it: it was all Jesse. (Fun fact? They call broccoli rabe purple sprouting broccoli here.) But for those playing at home, bring a pot of water to a boil, toss in your purple sprouting, cook for 3 minutes, drain, eat!



2 responses to “Overcoming fears, polenta edition

  1. Looks like a great meal!
    Adding a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes and
    using a low sodium vegetable or chicken broth when cooking broccoli rabe is a real treat too…..good to see jess getting in on the act!
    I don’t remember broccoli rabe being available in England in stores or markets in the 70’s and 80’s.
    Also, what are your thoughts about using beans rather than canned beans? (I am forever conscious of need to reduce sodium content!)

    • This was going to be a complaint for another day, but I can never find canned black beans! It’s a real shame because I love them, and I never think straight enough in the morning to soak them before work. I even have a recipe for black bean burgers that I want to try out if I can ever find them.

      Wouldn’t the cans be salty, too?

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