Vegan Potage Polenta

Cooked cornmeal, enlivened with fresh and dried tomatoes and red beans, makes a delightfully dense soup base. Serve this meal-in-a-bowl with a bountiful salad and crusty bread.

Serves 6 to 8

What You Need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic 
  • 6 cups water 
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground 
  • 1 16-ounce can small red beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 
  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes 
  • 1⁄4 cup oil-cured sun-dried tomatoes, plus more for garnish if desired 
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning 
  • 6 to 8 ounces Swiss chard or spinach, well washed, stemmed and chopped 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
  • Handful of basil leaves, cut into strips 
  • 1⁄2 cup grated mozzarella-style nondairy cheese for garnish (optional)

What You Do:

  1. In a soup pot over low heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and sauté until golden.
  2. Add 4 cups of the water and bring to a gentle simmer. Pour the cornmeal into a pot in a thin, steady stream, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly.
  3. Stir in the beans, zucchini, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and seasoning. Cover and continue to simmer gently. Uncover to whisk well every 5 minutes or so, for 25 minutes, or until the cornmeal is cooked. Whisk in 1 cup of water with each of the last two stirrings.
  4. Stir in the chard or spinach. Cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes for the chard and 3 to 5 minutes for the spinach, just until tender but still bright green. Adjust the consistency with more water if needed. The soup should be fairly thick, but thinner than a cornmeal porridge.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. Top each serving with a few strips of basil, a sprinkling of cheese, and a few extra slices of sun-dried tomato.

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