I always feel bad for my vegetarian friends where we’re out for dinner or at a cookout, party, etc…
“Oh hey Kate, are you enjoying the 5,000th plate of grilled vegetables you’ve had to endure in your life while dining out?”
“Kevin, how is that weird bowl of quinoa with unidentified wilted greens, and raw sliced tomato that were the only veg things on the menu at brunch? Yum!”
“Well…the salad is vegetarian, Paul…Oh inside the to-die-for-looking puff pastry? That’s beef wellington…Sorry…”
You get the idea. Vegetarians often times majorly get the shaft when it comes to having interesting and varied dining options. Some say hey, then be an OMNIVORE for crying out loud! But really, I admire the choice to become vegetarian. As I mentioned in a previous post I was veg for a while too, and since being seduced back into the world of meat still cook veg a lot. (Though at this point it would take a lot for me to give up my love of eating sweet, delicious animals.) I’ve got a small collection of veg posts right on this blog as a matter of fact.
The point of all this rambling is that recently one of my bestest friends ever took the plunge into vegetarianism. He’s an ardent lover of food and of cooking, and there is no freaking way in hell I would ever have him over for dinner and relegate him to eating side dishes, boring grilled veggies, etc (though he graciously tells me every time not to worry about him…AS IF!)
The recipe below is what I prepared for him on our most recent dinner rendezvous, taking advantage of fresh herbs and veggies in my garden – a fantastic vegetarian entrée from the pages of last year’s June issue of Bon Appétit. A gorgeous polenta made with whole milk and veg broth serves as a pedestal for sautéed wild mushrooms, green beans and peas, all doused in a buttery melty leek and vermouth sauce...even my Dad, whose diet could be compared to that of a T-Rex with a sweet tooth, loved this dish much to his own loudly expressed disbelief. Vegetarians…I’ve got your back with this one! But my apologies to vegans…sigh.
Polenta with Green Beans, Mushrooms, Peas and Leeks
Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit, June 2009
Makes 6 generous servings
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed (totally in season right now, so good!)
1 cup fresh shelled peas (frozen are okay too if nothing in your grocery/garden is looking decent)
4 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 3/4 cups coarse polenta cornmeal (I'd highly recommend this over fine for this dish, but if that's all you've got just lessen the cooking time by half)
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only, about 2 medium)
1 1/2 cups sweet vermouth (originally called for dry white but I used sweet and it was lovely!)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, stemmed, any large caps cut into wedges (I used crimini, shiitake, baby bella, etc...you get the idea)
3 large shallots, sliced (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Blanch green beans for 1 minute in boiling water. Add peas and cook until both beans and peas are crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain. Cut beans on diagonal into 1 inch pieces. Set beans and peas aside.
Bring milk and broth to boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to low. Cook until polenta is very thick, whisking almost constantly, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, combine leeks and vermouth in a medium saucepan. Boil over med-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in butter, allowing each addition to melt before adding next. Add cream and whisk over very low heat to blend. Season with salt and pepper, set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute until almost tender, 5 minutes. Stir in shallots, 1 tablespoon parsley, and thyme. Saute until mushrooms are very tender, about 3-5 more minutes. Add beans and peas, tossing to coat.
Rewarm polenta and spoon into serving bowls. Top each bowl with a good helping of green bean mixture and a sprinkle of parsley. Rewarm leeks over low heat, whisking, then spoon over green been mixture in each bowl.