I saw a recipe that sounded very good – White Bean and Farro Pesto Bowl. I enjoy farro, a type of wheat usually served boiled as a base or part of a recipe. It has a great nutty flavor and good texture. I can sometimes find it at a co-op market in Las Cruces, a mere 45 minute drive away. I have not found it in El Paso and hope that a Whole Foods store scheduled to open in the fall will give me better access to some special foods. The clincher in the recipe for me was cannellini beans and pesto. These white kidney beans are a staple in my pantry and pesto is always a treat. My original intention was to do the original recipe and save it from being a vegetarian dish by adding some hot Italian sausage. I promised myself I’d make it another time by the recipe. More goodies in the recipe were kale or spinach greens and roasted grape tomatoes.
I wandered around the super market wondering how I might catch the essence of the recipe. While contemplating a menu, I almost always visit the supermarket bakery. They have a bag of their cookies available for tasting. I find that walking the aisles of the store while enjoying a cookie stimulates my imagination. I tell the bakery staff that the cookie is my reward for doing the shopping. One of them now points to the back and calls out “Shoppers reward.”
I was on a roll last night. No farro and no cookies at the time I got there.
I decided I’d punt and make the recipe with the addition of Italian Sausage and serve it on polenta instead of farro.
The resident house food critic gave it five stars. He’d rate anything with sausage in it as five star! I thought it was very good, too. I really enjoyed the bean and pesto flavors together and the way they looked on top of the greens and sausage.
Here’s my recipe for Polenta Punt and Run with Cannellini Bowl.
3 cups water
1 cup polenta
1/2 kosher salt.
1/4 cup half and half
1 TBSP butter
2 or 3 hot Italian sausage links; sweet would work, too
3 peeled and coarsely chopped garlic cloves
5 or 6 sun dried small tomatoes in olive oil, coarsely chopped
1/2 bunch of kale (or spinach) stems removed and chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 TBSP or more to taste of pesto (homemade or jarred)
Grated parmegiano reggiano cheese for garnish
Bring water to boil and slowly stir in polenta; reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot and cook, stirring occasionally until tender; when done (about 12-15 minutes) stir in butter and half and half and let come back up to temp (polenta will bubble and spatter if you are note careful). Cover and remove from heat, but keep warm. If it thickens too much, add a light splash of extra chicken broth to thin.
Remove casings from sausage, trying to maintain their shape and brown in a covered medium skillet. When sausages are getting color and have firmed up, slice them into 1-inch bite-size pieces. Continue to brow until sausage is done, then remove from pan.
Remove all but 1 Tbsp sausage drippings from pan and toss in the chopped garlic. Cook in drippings until tender (about 3 minutes) and add the chopped sun dried tomatoes. When tomatoes are warmed, add the chopped kale and chicken broth. Cover and cook until kale wilts and is tender. Set lid aside and let kale cook until chicken broth has almost evaporated. Stir until kale, garlic and tomatoes are well mixed, add sausage, stir into greens and let warm up again.
Zap drained beans about 30 seconds to warm them, stir pesto into beans.
Dish pesto into two shallow bowls, top with greens and sausage mixture. Add the cannellini beans in the center of the greens and sprinkle with the cheese. Italian style comfort food to enjoy until I get my hands on some farro.