Thursday, January 28, 2010

Savory Bean Stew over Polenta

I love the winter because it gives me a chance to eat hearty soups and stews. Nobody wants to sweat over bean stew in July, but it's perfectly divine in January. Not only is this recipe warm and filling, it's also inexpensive and healthy - good for your post-holiday budget and waistlines! It might be January's perfect food.


  • 1 tablespoon plain olive oil
  • 1 cup of equal parts chopped onion, celery, and red/green bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 cup dried pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth, divided
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper

Cover the beans in 2-3 times their volume of water. Soak 6-8 hours (or overnight). Pour beans and water into a large saucepan and bring to a low boil. Cook for 90 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
NOTE: The black beans will dye the other beans purple! This does not affect their flavor but does make it look funny. You may want to both soak and cook the black beans separately.

Heat oil in the same saucepan over medium-low heat. Sweat chopped vegetable with a pinch of salt for 5-7 minutes, or until the veggies are soft and translucent. Stir in cooked beans, tomatoes (with juice), and herbs. Make a slurry with 1/4 cup broth and flour and stir into bean mixture. Bring to a boil and add the remaining broth. Simmer, stirring frequently, over low heat for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

While the stew is simmering, prepare polenta. Bring 3 cups water to a boil and add the salt. Gradually stir in cornmeal, whisking constantly. Once all the cornmeal is integrated, reduce heat and simmer and 5 to 8 minutes or until polenta thickens and hold it's shape, but still soft. Season to taste with black pepper. Spread polenta over plate or large soup dish and top with stew.

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