How to Prepare Polenta with Smoky Mushroom Ragout

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Polenta_cHere's a great vegan entree with loads of flavor. Ragout is a nebulous term that can refer to a main dish stew, or to a sauce over pasta - or in this case, over polenta. Mainly, it refers to ingredients slow-cooked over low heat, so I guess this recipe qualifies! And you can count the cost of your polenta at once.

First, combine 3 cups water, 3/4 cup uncooked polenta, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), and 1/2 tsp. salt in an 8x8-inch baking dish, stirring to combine. Bake at 350 degrees until the liquid is absorbed (the original recipe said one hour, but I checked mine at 40 minutes and it was perfect).

While the polenta cooks, heat a teaspoon and a half of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion and saute 5 minutes. Add 4 cups sliced oyster mushroom caps and 1/4 tsp. salt and cook for 10 minutes - the mushrooms will release moisture and begin to brown.

Oyster mushrooms, FYI, look just like their namesakes, with a broad fan-shaped cap. If you can't find them, substitute maitake or shiitake mushrooms. As with most mushrooms, be prepared to pay a high price per pound.

Stir in 2 tablespoons unfiltered Cotes du Rhone wine (or other vegan red wine of your choice), a teaspoon and a half chopped and drained chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, and 1 large minced garlic clove. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly (the liquid should be mostly evaporated).

Add one (14-ounce) can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped; reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I learned a nice storage tip for canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, since usually so little is needed for a recipe, and there is a lot leftover. Store the leftovers in individual portions in an ice cube tray and freeze. Next time a recipe calls for them, just thaw one serving, and return the rest to the freezer. As far as brands go, I prefer Casa Fiesta - it's the only one I have found that does not list sugar in the ingredient list, and I can't be sure how the sugar in other brands was filtered (i.e. with non-vegan bone char).

Now spoon the ragout over the polenta. Sprinkle the top with 1 cup crumbled vegan feta, in place of queso fresco - try the vegan feta from Sunergia. Bake an additional 15 minutes, still at 350 degrees.

Sprinkle the top with 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro. Divide into 4 equal squares, each of which is 250 calories.


Cost:

oyster mushrooms $10.91

Cotes du Rhone wine $16.25

canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce $3.59

canned whole tomatoes $1.50

vegan feta $3.00


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