Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Black Bean Polenta Bowls

I love Mexican food, of all kinds.  I'm a little ashamed to admit that my favorite kind of Mexican food is actually the cheap-o Tex Mex that I get at home.  Like Los Rednecks.  Man, I miss that place.  There are also really good, authentic Mexican restaurants in Boston and I've been lucky to visit a few of them.  The food is different that what I typically think of as Mexican, but it's really good.  And you don't feel all gross at the end because you know you just ate your body weight in delicious delicious cheese sauce.

This dish is pretty light, but still filling and tasty.  It is a little more time consuming than the average weeknight meal, but I was done and ready to eat in about 45 min, which includes the time that it took me to stop and take pictures for this post.  If you've never had polenta before, I suggest you try it.  It's basically really finely ground grits/cornmeal.  It cooks up quickly and is a nice alternate grain if you're tired of pasta or rice. 

The onions/peppers are TOTALLY worth the little bit of extra time they take.  They get all soft and good.  And once you get them in the pan and start cooking, there isn't a lot of active time.  You just stir every couple of minutes. 

Black Bean Polenta Bowl

I'm breaking this down into three parts, because there are overlapping ingredients and I don't want you to get confused. 

Caramelized Onions and Peppers:
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (as always, you can use whatever cooking oil you usually use)
2 Medium or 1 Large Onion
2 Bell Peppers (if you remember, get different colors because it looks prettier)

Black Beans:
2 Teaspoons Olive Oil
1 3/4 Cups Black Beans (I used the ones leftover from my black bean dip)
1/4 Cup Vegetable Stock
1/4 Cup Salsa (I used green salsa as that's what was open.  Whatever kind you have would be fine, but it will work better if it's not a chunky salsa.)
1 4oz Can Diced Green Chilies (These are by the taco kits at my grocery store)
1/2-1 Tablespoons Chipotle Sauce (I forgot to get this, so I used Sirracha instead.  Any kind of hot sauce would be fine, but Chipotle would really be best.)
2 Teaspoons Minced Garlic (It's like 4-5 Cloves)
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin

Cheesy Polenta:
1 1/2 Cups Vegetable Stock
1 1/2 Cups Water
1 Cup Polenta/Cornmeal (I actually ended up using part regular grits because I ran turned out fine, but it's a different texture)
3/4 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
Hot Sauce
Salt and Pepper

I know, it seems like a lot, but it's not that bad, I promise!!

Do the onions and peppers first, as they take the longest.  Heat the oil in your largest pan (you want for them to have plenty of space to spread out).  Slice the onions and peppers; try to make it somewhat even, but don't obsess.  I doesn't matter that much.

Cook over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.  Stir frequently.  When soft, sprinkle LIBERALLY with salt, turn the heat down to medium low, and let them cook until caramelized.  Should be another 30-40 min.  Mine actually could have gone longer, but I was starving. 

After you get the peppers and onions settled, start on the beans.  Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium sized pot.  Chop the garlic and add it when the oil is hot.

After 30 seconds to a minute, when the garlic becomes "fragrant", add the beans, salsa, vegetable stock, cumin, chilies, and hot sauce.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If you used canned beans, go easy on the salt, as the can stuff adds a lot of salt. 

Mix it all together and simmer until all the liquid is gone. 

For the polenta, bring the water/stock mixture to a boil.  Once it start boiling, slowly add in the polenta while stirring.  If you don't stir and just kind of dump it in there, it gets all clumpy.

Once most of the liquid has absorbed, add the cheese, hot sauce, and salt/pepper.

Build yourself a little bowl with polenta, beans, and veggies.  Top with guacamole, sour cream, more salsa and cheese....whatever you like.  Enjoy!!

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