Soy-Braised Wild Mushrooms Over Polenta with Blistered Tomatoes + Green Beans -- a surprisingly vegan polenta bowl that straddles the seasons and pairs perfectly with Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir.
– Emily Stoffel, The Pig & Quill
Here in California, we’re in the midst of a rather tumultuous season. Thanks to far more rainfall than we’ve gotten in ages, the hillsides rival a Crayola Big Box in shades of green – fiercely verdant and dotted with things coming to life. And yet, there’s still an uncharacteristic chill in the air. Enough to send the reminder that spring has not, indeed, quite sprung – that we’re still firmly enrobed in sweater weather (at least for another week or two).
Around here, we’re embracing the extra opportunity to get cozy with a meal that celebrates both of the seasons we’re straddling. Enter: these (surprisingly!) vegan polenta bowls. A bed of creamy polenta and earthy wild mushrooms braised in dark soy and just a bit of maple syrup are the things comfort food dreams are made of. And then there are the veggies. Tiny, bright tomatoes and snappy green beans, both blistered on a hot grill pan until they’re infused with the promise of backyard cookouts to come. We like this dish paired with Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, which plays well with the savory mushrooms and the subtly smoky produce. If you’ve got it on hand, a hunk of crisply-crusted bread makes for a nice pairing, as well.
You might just find me eating this for every meal for the remainder of the season -- or at least until the persistent cloud cover gives way to sun-streaked fog (hey, I’ll take what I can get) and, eventually, those postcard-blue skies for which California is so famous. And, you know what? I won’t be complaining in the least.
Soy-Braised Wild Mushrooms Over Polenta with Blistered Tomatoes + Green Beans
Cook time: ~1 hr 20 mins
Note: The following recipe is broken down into components, with the polenta taking the longest to prepare (not including the soaking time for rehydrating the mushrooms). I recommend starting to rehydrate the mushrooms in advance of bringing the polenta water to a boil. By the time the mushrooms have rehydrated and they’re ready to braise, the polenta should be nearly done and can be kept warm, covered, off of the heat. The tomatoes, green beans and flavorful cilantro oil -- all of which can be served just warm or at room temperature -- are made while the polenta cooks.
Soy-Braised Wild Mushrooms
- 2 oz dried wild mushrooms (I like a blend of oyster, shitake, porcini and/or trumpet)
- 1/2 cup reserved mushroom stock (see instructions)
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- 2 T chinking vinegar (Chinese black vinegar)
- 2 T maple syrup
- 1 T sesame oil
In a medium bowl, pour enough boiling water over mushrooms to cover completely. Cover bowl and allow to rehydrate for 1 hour. (At this point, begin your polenta.)
Drain rehydrated mushrooms, reserving mushroom stock (avoid any silty parts that may have settled at the bottom). Add mushrooms, 1/2 cup reserved mushroom stock, dark soy sauce, vinegar, maple syrup and sesame oil to a heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a bubble. Reduce to a bare simmer, cover and cook 10 mins. Remove lid and cook, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by about half.
Creamy Vegan Polenta
- 1 cup medium grind cornmeal
- 5 cups water (plus more, as needed)
- 1 tsp Himalayan pink (or sea) salt
- reserved mushroom stock (as needed)
In a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or saucepan with a lid, bring water to a boil. Add salt and slowly whisk in cornmeal. Continue to whisk until mixture begins to thicken slightly, about 3 mins. Turn heat to low and cook for 50-60 mins, stirring every 10 mins, until polenta is plump and tender and no raw-tasting or grainy bits remain. If polenta becomes thicker than you desire while it cooks, whisk in a little more water or reserved mushroom stock. Remove polenta from heat and cover with lid until ready to serve.
- 1 large handful cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- Himalayan pink or sea salt, to taste
Whisk together all ingredients adding more salt or lemon juice to taste, if needed.
Charred Green Beans
- 1/2 lb green beans
- olive oil
- Himalayan pink (or sea) salt
Heat an indoor grill pan over a medium flame. Toss green beans liberally with olive oil and season generously with salt. Arrange on hot grill pan in a (mostly) single layer, working in batches, if necessary, and cook until marked in places. Toss and continue cooking until lightly charred all over, 5-7 mins total. Remove green beans and reserve until ready to serve. (Keep grill pan hot for tomatoes.)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- Heaping tablespoon Cilantro Oil (recipe above)
Toss tomatoes with a generous spoonful of the Cilantro Oil. Tumble onto same preheated grill pan used for green beans in a single layer. Gently toss/rotate until charred in places but not yet bursting, about 3 mins total.
To Assemble Soy-Braised Wild Mushroom Vegan Polenta Bowls
Spoon polenta into bowls. Top generously with braised mushrooms, charred green beans, and blistered tomatoes. Spoon additional Cilantro Oil over bowls, to taste. Pour yourself a glass of Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir and enjoy!