03 January 2014

Mushroom, Lentil, and Chestnut Ragù

A ragu is meant to be a little bit sauce-like, but mine was more solid. This is my version of the Myra Kornfeld recipe in my favorite cookbook, the Voluptuous Vegan. I bought my copy about 10 years ago and have slowly worked my way through ever since, triumph by delectable triumph. Allow yourself a generous 3 to 4 hours. It tastes like Thanksgiving! All the picky eaters in my family loved it. Serves 8 hearty eaters alongside the broccoli rabe polenta--which you could make a few days before because it keeps well--of the previous post.

1 Cup whole roasted chestnuts from a jar
1 1/2 Cups French lentils (they keep their shape, unlike some lentils I could mention!)
7-8 sprigs fresh rosemary
7-8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
12 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 large portabello mushrooms
6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tablespoons shoyu or gluten-free soy sauce
2 onions, diced (2 Cups)
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery stalks, cut into large pieces on the diagonal
salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 large lemon

  1. Cover lentils with 8 Cups water in a pot. Add a bouquet garni (tied in cheesecloth) of 6 sprigs rosemary, 6 sprigs thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, about 30 minutes or until lentils are soft. Drain liquid, remove bouquet garni, and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to  375 degrees. Clean mushrooms. Remove stems. Cut the mushrooms into large chunks. Toss in a bowl with 4 Tablespoons olive oil and all of the soy sauce. Spread in a shallow baking pan and roast 30 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In a very large saucepan, heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add onions, garlic, and celery and saute about 10 minutes until softened. Salt it to taste.
  4. Add the lentils to the onion mixture. Salt to taste. Add the mushrooms. Add the chestnuts, breaking them up by hand. Add about 1 Cup water. Simmer to marry the flavors and add any salt or pepper to taste. Turn off the heat.
  5. Mince a teaspoon of rosemary, one teaspoon of thyme, and add it to the mixture along with the lemon juice. Serve immediately while wearing well-polished boots. 

Three Minute Polenta

For Snowed-In Blizzard Day, I made an extremely fancy dish from my favorite cookbook, The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld.  The meal included a carbohydrate base of baked polenta triangles with broccoli rabe. Kornfeld suggested reducing the usually burdensome cooking time by mixing the stone-ground polenta with quick-cooking corn grits. She wrote that it should take 15 to 20 minutes of gentle bubbling for the dish to thicken into genuine polenta. For some reason, when I stirred 1 Cup each of the polenta and grits into the 6 cups of salted and oiled boiling water, they instantly became polenta. It took me a minute or two of panicked water-adding before I realized it had happened.

But Sarah, you ask skeptically, was this "instant" polenta anything like the real deal? Yes, dear reader. Exactly like. I stirred in the blanched and chopped broccoli rabe, let the polenta cool and harden, had my handy assistant carve it into triangles, brushed it with oil, and baked it for 40 minutes at 375 degrees into perfectly delicious food. Since I don't know what I did, I'd be curious to hear if anyone replicates this "method."
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