Creamy Mascarpone Polenta w/ Mushroom Ragu


Creamy Mascarpone Polenta w/ Mushroom Ragu

Oh, my goodness! It’s actually cold here in Los Angeles.  For the first time, I can honestly say that it feels a bit like I’m in Atlanta or dare I say, New Jersey.  Interestingly, when I told my mom how cold it was here, she gleefully stated, “Well, it looks like you gave us all of your heat.”  Okay, so it’s opposites day!  Well, the only way to combat such a cold streak is to make cozy, comfort food.

This Mascarpone Polenta with Mushroom Ragu is rustic, creamy, and classic.  A perfect meal to warm you up from the chilly air. This is a quick meal involving cremini mushrooms, mascarpone (oh joy) and cornmeal.  Most recipes combine a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms and incorporate a variety of mushrooms, such as chanterelles, porcini, shitakes.  For this recipe, I used one type of mushroom as this is what I hand on hand. Also, depending on where you live, your store may have shitake’s, but not chanterelle’s.  If you’re like me and set on having the exact ingredients for a dish, save yourself the frustration and stick to one type of mushroom.  If you nail it, and find all the mushrooms, go for it.  You’ll be pleased with the result as each mushroom imparts its on flavor and texture.  It will be a treat.

Lastly, there is much debate about whether to use polenta or cornmeal to make this dish.  Well, polenta is the dish, not the ingredient. So, you can definitely use cornmeal that you see at your local grocery store.  However, you can purchase cornmeal that is labeled “polenta,” such as this and this brand if you want to be authentic.




4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper

mushroom ragu
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped shallots
1-1   ½ pounds crimini mushrooms or a mix of mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shitake)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
Fresh ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the salt.  Whisking constantly, add the cornmeal in a very thin, steady stream.  Stir until thickened.  Remove from the heat.  Add the mascarpone, parmesan cheese and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

For the mushroom ragu, heat the oil in a large skillet to medium-low.  Add the shallots and cook until wilted.  Raise the heat to high, add the mushrooms, thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until mushrooms are tender, and liquid has evaporated.  Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute.  Add the red wine and stir until the wine evaporates.  Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and continue to cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

To assemble, put the polenta into individual bowls and generously top with the mushroom ragu.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

The Ultimate Veggie Fried Rice

Check out my Ultimate Veggie Fried Rice guys!  This weeknight recipe is a quick and healthy version of the Classic Chinese take-out.  My version is loaded with a powerhouse of vegetables such as boy choy, red cabbage, carrots, shitake mushrooms and asparagus.  This is my go-to weeknight recipe for the fam.  There are never left-overs and I find myself throwing this into the dinner rotation at least every other week, varying the vegetables. 

Also, with the summer heat, do I really want to turn on the oven?  I think not! So, stove top cooking is the way to go.  This recipe comes together in under 30 minutes.  All you need to do is prep your veggies in advance and let the countdown begin.

This is the veggie version of fried rice, but feel free to add your favorite protein such as shrimp, chicken and tofu.  This recipe is so customizable it screams do what you want with me.  Yes, I said that! The meal is bright and colorful, so you’re totally eating the rainbow.  It’s nutritious and will instantly become a part of your weeknight rotation.

Isn’t that what a weeknight dinner is supposed to be?

The Ultimate Veggie Fried Rice//serves 4

3 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon oil (sesame, coconut oil, etc).
2 eggs, beaten
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 medium sized onion, diced
3-4 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 small head cabbage, shredded
½ lb fresh shitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
4-5 boy choy, stems and leaves thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin

Heat a wok or frying pan to medium high heat until hot.  Add ½ teaspoon oil and swirl around wok.  Add beaten eggs and swirl around to coat bottom with a thin layer.  When the egg is set, with a rubber spatula, roll the egg into an omelet and transfer to a plate to cool.  Wipe out the wok and return to the heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of oil and add minced garlic, grated ginger and diced onion.  Cook stirring often, until onions are translucent and garlic and ginger are fragrant.  Add your vegetables and salt and cook, stirring often until vegetables are cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Transfer vegetables to a bowl.  Set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to work, and place 3 cups of the rice into the work.  Spread the rice out evenly and allow rice to sit for about 5 minutes.  This will help brown the rice on the bottom.  Add the vegetables to the brown rice along with the tamari, rice wine vinegar and mirin.  Stir all together until well incorporated.  Add more tamari to taste if you’d like. 

For the egg omelet, slice and place atop of veggie fried rice.  Transfer to bowls and serve immediately.  Garnish with cilantro, Thai chili peppers or Sriracha.

Fettuccine w/ Creamy Lentils, Wild Mushrooms and Swiss Chard

I don’t always like to languish over a hot stove/oven for hours preparing meals The Barefoot Contessa and/or Martha Stewart would be proud of.  With two kids, simple and quick is best and this can sometimes include weekends. Generally, my weekends allow me to create elaborate and fun meals, but that all can change, i.e. events, adult birthday parties, kid birthday parties and is it me, but it seems that all of my kids’ classmates turn the same age at once.  It’s like back to back parties.  My refrigerator sometimes is rife with birthday party invitations and I often have to rely on my kids to let me know, which invitation belongs to whom.  Sometimes they don’t include the age. Ah, mommy life!

Back to the food ….

I found this recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Laura Wright at The First Mess.  Besides being a wonderful photographer, Laura’s food is a celebration of plant-based eating.  Her recipes are vibrant, easy to make and truly showcase the diversity of fresh fruits and vegetables in a plant based lifestyle.  This truly was a simple and quick meal to make, bursting with earthy flavors from the mushrooms and lentils.  I made one minor tweak to the recipe and added additional liquid as the original recipe is more of a stew and not a sauce. I also used Swiss chard (what I had on hand) instead of kale.  I’ll be making this again as it is truly comfort food.  

Fettuccine w/ Creamy Lentils, Wild Mushrooms, and Swiss Chard//serves 4
Adapted from The First Mess

1 lb. package fettuccine
1 cup French green lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely diced
1 lb. mixed mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons white wine
2 teaspoons tamari soy sauce
1 ½ cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup unsweetened plant based milk
3-4 Swiss chard stalks, stems removed and leaves sliced

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the lentils to the water, with a pinch of salt and simmer the lentils until just tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Next, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions.  Drain, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid, and return the pasta to the pot.

In a medium pot, sauté the shallot.  Cook until the shallots are soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot and let them sit for a minute.  Stir the mushrooms and add salt and pepper.  Add the garlic and thyme and stir.  Once the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds, add the white wine and tamari.  Stir the mushrooms.  Add the drained lentils, vegetable stock and plant milk to the pot.  Stir and bring to a boil.

Ladle half of the mushroom mixture into your blender, adding enough liquid from the pot.  Blend on high until smooth.  Scrape the creamy blend back into your pot.  Add the Swiss chard and stir.  Bring to a boil and check for seasoning.

Tip:  The original recipe from The First Mess is a stew consistency, which is divine within itself, but to get a saucier consistency add additional liquid.