Thursday, April 28, 2016

Creamy Lentils, Leeks, and Mushrooms with Cheesy Polenta

Even with spring officially sprung here in New England, we still get some chilly days and properly cold nights, and on such occasions today's recipe is exactly what's called for. Packed with lentils and veggies, this hearty stew is among my notions of a perfect meal: nourishing, healthy, and comforting, especially when ladled over a pile of warm, cheesy polenta. (Mashed potatoes, rice, or some other grain would also work, but trust me: you want the polenta.) Since this dish is also quite filling, you're almost sure to have leftovers, which is excellent news because it's the sort of thing that only gets better as it sits.

Creamy Lentils, Leeks, and Mushrooms 
~ 3.5 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 cup brown lentils
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large leek, sliced
~ 1 large carrot, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, thyme, marjoram
~ A few good grinds black pepper
~ 1 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ ½ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tsp. cornstarch
~ ½ lb. frozen spinach

~ Bring the broth and bay leaves to a boil in a saucepan and stir in the lentils. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are softened but not falling apart. Remove from heat and set aside.
~ Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and cook the mushrooms over medium-high heat until browned and fragrant. Sprinkle with salt and transfer to a plate.
~ Add the olive oil to the skillet and cook the leeks and carrot over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, dry seasonings, and Worcestershire and cook another 30 seconds or so. Pour in the lentils (along with their cooking liquid) and stir well.
~ Whisk the soy milk and cornstarch together and add to the pot. Continue cooking another 10 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened a bit.
~ Remove the bay leaves, add the frozen spinach, and cook another few minutes until the greens have just wilted.

Cheesy Polenta
~ 6 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 1.5 cups polenta (I used Bob's Red Mill)
~ 1 cup grated vegan cheese (I used TJ's mozzarella)
~ ½ cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 tsp. garlic powder
~ ½ tsp. white pepper

~ In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a rapid boil.
~ Pour in the polenta and, whisking constantly, add the remaining ingredients.
~ Continue cooking - don't stop whisking! - for 10-15 minutes, until you have a smooth, creamy, cheesy porridge.
~ Ladle generously into wide, shallow bowls and top with lentils.

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