Polenta is the perfect choice when you want to venture outside of your go-to pasta and vegetable dinner. Take a page from "Great Chefs Cook Vegan" for a spring dish that's simply delish.
5 1⁄2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup medium-grain polenta
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
Fresh Shell Bean Ragout
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1⁄4 cup finely diced onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
3 cups fresh shell beans (at least 2 types such as flagolets, black beans, black-eyed peas, limas, or cranberry beans)
Kosher salt to taste
1⁄2 pound haricots verts or thin string beans
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
2 tablespoons sliced opal basil
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Cherry Tomato-Olive Sauce
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons diced shallot
3 tablespoons sliced black olives
1⁄2 lemon, for juicing
1 tablespoon parsley
2 tablespoons sliced basil, both green and purple (if possible)
To make the Grilled Polenta:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil over high heat. Add polenta slowly, whisking continuously. Turn heat down to low and continue cooking for another 20 minutes, whisking often. Add another 1/2 cup water as needed, about every 20 minutes to keep smooth and moist. The heat should be low so that the polenta is barely simmering. As you whisk, make sure you reach the bottom of the pan to prevent the polenta from scorching. For the purposes of grilling, the polenta should be a little thicker than it would be if you were serving it soft.
Whisk in 2 tablespoons oil and taste for seasoning. Pour the polenta onto a lightly oiled baking sheet-it should be about 3/4 inch thick. Chill overnight and then cut polenta into triangles.
Light the grill 30 to 40 minutes before cooking. When the coals are broken down, red, and glowing, brush both sides of the polenta with oil and grill the triangles for 5 to 6 minutes, until you have nice marks. Turn the polenta over and cook until you have nice color on the second side and the polenta is very hot.
To make the Fresh Shell Bean Ragout:
For each type of bean, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Swirl 2 tablespoons oil into each pan and divide onion, garlic, and thyme between them. Sauté over medium heat about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the shell beans (again, cooking each variety separately), and cook for a few minutes, stirring to coat them in the oil. Add salt and water to cover 2 inches. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until the beans are just tender. (Cooking time will vary depending on the types of beans used. Taste to see if they are done.) Remove from the heat and then cool the beans in the cooking liquid.
While the beans are cooking, blanch haricots verts in a large pot of salted boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until tender but still al dente. Transfer the haricots verts onto a baking sheet to cool.
Drain the shell beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 1 minute. Swirl in remaining oil, add haricots verts, and shallot to the pan. Add the shell beans, and stir gently, being careful not to crush the beans. Add about 1/2 cup shell bean cooking liquid to the pan to moisten the ragout. Taste for seasoning and cook a few minutes until beans are hot. Add opal basil and parsley right before serving.
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