White Bean and Leek Stew with Fresh Herbs | Served on Creamy Polenta

I can’t believe it, but the three of us have been holed up in our 30 ft. recreational vehicle for a full four months now. I’m not mathematically inclined, but I was paying enough attention in elementary school to know that that’s an entire third of a year, folks! Those who read my initial posts on this blog may recall my many anxieties about making an RV – and by extension a trailer park – our temporary home. For instance, I anticipated taking on the ways of my neighbours and making polyester caftans my preferred leisure wear. That hasn’t happened, although I do find myself forfeiting skinny jeans and other such restrictive articles of clothing for track pants with increasing frequency, which suits me just fine. I also had a disproportionate fear of having to ignite a pilot light in order to use the oven. This I now do with an expert flick of the Bic lighter, and without visions of a ball of flame spewing forth from the oven and singeing off my eyebrows.

There are, however, a few things about trailer park life I haven’t taken so kindly too. Right up at the top of the list – and I realize a food blog is hardly the place for toilet talk so I’ll keep this short – is the special (not in a good way) ‘quick dissolve’ toilet paper you have to use so as not to clog the RV’s plumbing system. It’s one-ply, and it’s rough (although the package claims otherwise), and it’s so thin that you can’t even get it off the roll without it tearing. It’s not like I demand a luxuriant lilac-scented 4-ply tissue to be happy, but this stuff is ridiculous. Think the bathroom at a gas station and the toilet paper they provide you with there – only WORSE. There, I’ve vented. Now I’ll move on.

Another thing I’ve had to adjust to is RV’s small hot water tank. I’ve never been one to dawdle or sing or engage in protracted contemplations in the shower, but before we moved into the RV I’d take it for granted that I could lather up, wash my hair and shave without running out of hot water. It was a nasty awakening the first time I showered in the RV and the thing went cold on me in the process of rinsing the shampoo out of my hair (so not impressed). It took a few tries but finally I managed to get it down to a science, which looks something like this: Turn water on, get wet all over. Turn water off, lather. Turn water on, wet hair. Turn water off and lather hair. Turn water on and rinse hair. Turn water off and shave. Turn water on and take a final rinse. Sometimes the water still runs out on me and it kind of sucks – and don’t even get me started on the crappy water pressure – but I’m coping.

There are other annoyances I’ve detailed in previous posts – the lack of storage space, the barely long enough bed, the cold floor. But hey, we knew it wouldn’t be perfect. What the RV does have in its favour is a fully functional – albeit miniscule – kitchenette, a place for me chop vegetables and dirty cookwear to my heart’s content. And that, at the end of the day, is keeping me occupied, if not entirely sane, while forced to live in a confined space. On that note – a few words about this dish. Or one word, really: polenta! This stuff is crazy delicious, and in the process of making it today I wondered why I don’t eat it like, all the time. Its smooth texture and mild flavour makes it the perfect creamy companion for the light, fresh flavours of the stew. I love cooking with fresh herbs; they go hand in hand with the leeks, shallots and tomatoes and really work wonders to brighten up the taste of the stew. Try this recipe if you want to inject a little Spring into your Fall. I’m sure at this point we all need a little bit of that!

What are your favourite dishes that use cornmeal? Please share your recipes and ideas!

Note:Β I made the polenta using a combination of dairy (parmesan) and nondairy (almond milk, vegan margarine) ingredients, but depending on your preference you can make it using exclusively vegan (or lacto-ovo) ingredients. I’ve outlined both options in the ingredient list below.

Recipe:Β White Bean and Leek Stew with Fresh Herbs | Served on Creamy Polenta

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

Creamy Polenta

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (or unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or vegan margarine)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or vegan parmesan), grated (plus a bit more for garnish)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

White Bean and Leek Stew with Fresh Herbs

  • 1/2 cup dried white beans (I used navy beans; great northern beans would work well too)
  • 2 leeks, diced (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 small shallots, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • Pinch of red chili flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10-12 grape tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock (low sodium if preferred)
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Prepare white beans: Soak beans for about 6 hours in a few cups of water. Drain beans and rinse thoroughly, then place in fridge until you’re ready to begin making the stew. To cook beans, place them in a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water (don’t add salt as it prevents the beans from cooking properly). Bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover saucepan and cook until beans are tender but still firm, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Set aside until needed.

Finish stew: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter (or vegan margarine) in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and shallots and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute just until golden brown. Add red chili flakes and coriander and stir until incorporated with other ingredients. Fold in tomatoes and white beans. Add vegetable broth and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let stew simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and fold in parsley and oregano. Taste and adjust with salt if necessary. Set aside and prepare polenta.

Prepare polenta: Bring milk (or almond milk) to a gentle simmer. Whisk in cornmeal then switch to a spoon and stir until liquid is fully absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in butter (or vegan margarine) and parmesan (or vegan parmesan). If polenta is too thick, stir in a bit more liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

To serve, place a few spoonfuls of polenta in a bowl and top with stew (remember to remove bay leaf). Sprinkle with parmesan and freshly ground black pepper, then eat!

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23 thoughts on “White Bean and Leek Stew with Fresh Herbs | Served on Creamy Polenta

  1. I hardly ever make polenta either–I keep cornmeal on hand for pizza dough and cakes. This looks great, though! I’m pretty impressed with what you can do in a small space. πŸ™‚

  2. Yum!

    My heritage is Italian and my parents are from Italy — my mom is from Ancona, my dad Sicily so it was my mom who introduced my dad to Polenta — prior to that he had never eaten it.

    Anyhoo, there is a bit of folklore regarding polenta: always stir with a wooden spoon and always stir in the same direction — it is bad luck to do otherwise. πŸ™‚

    The last couple of time I made vegan polenta, I used canned coconut milk — it came out so creamy and delicious; however, I may try making it with almond milk like you recommended above as the coconut flavor was a bit heavy for my liking.

    Keep the vegan recipes coming… I’m always in search of new ideas. πŸ™‚

  3. Oh, I forgot to mention, growing up, often times my mom would fold in Ricotta Cheese or Gorgonzola into the polenta (her usual staple was parmigiano reggiano). Other times she would spread the cooked polenta out onto a half sheet pan, allow it to solidfy. Once firm enough, she would spread sauce and mozzarella cheese on top, bake in the oven and we would have “polenta pizza”. Yum! I miss those days. 😦

  4. First of, this meal looks amazing! I love all these ingredients and it looks very hearty. Secondly..your RV stories had me laughing! I think that adventure sounds fun, and not so fun all at the same time!

  5. I’m impressed by what you can do with such a small space! I often bemoan my tiny apartment kitchen, but I don’t think I have the right to complain anymore. This stew looks gorgeous. Thank you for giving a vegan option!

  6. Those are BEAUTIFUL photographs of such a delicious and wholesome sounding dish!! I love the contrast of the colors of the vegetables against the glass bowl.

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