Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Vegetarian mushroom & white bean ragout

I absolutely love fakeout recipes!  You know, the kind that tastes like one thing but is totally something else.  Sometimes it's an unexpected combination of ingredients or a novel serving suggestion.

Whatever it is, the result is something that pops!  Makes your taste buds go, "Wow!" and has you scratching your head in wonder, "How can this be?" ...and then instructs your brain to send a signal to your hand to put your fork right back into the dish for more because you just can't stop.

Last night's fakeout?  Tastes-just-like-pizza mushroom ragout!

A ragout is a thick chunky stew-esque sauce made with loads of vegetables, sometimes with meat, too, and fragrant spices and herbs.  Low and slow is how it's cooked, giving all of the parts more than enough time to make merry.

Start with some olive oil and chopped onions (and maybe a few tears if you're sensitive like me).

When the onions are soft, add the mountain of mushrooms and spices.  Big, gigantic mountain of flavor!

...that will cook down to barely a mole hill.  A delicious mole hill, at that.

Pour in the diced tomatoes, but hold the juice, please.  If you forget to, don't worry.  It's really not the end of the world, so turn that frown upside down and listen to what I'm going to say: You can remove a bit of the juice during cooking, or crank up the heat and let the mixture bubble away so the whole thing will thicken.

See?  It's that easy!  All smiles all the time.

(Truth be told, that's what I did.  The original recipe called for the juice, and I just found the whole thing to be a little too runny for my taste.)

Now, let the whole thing simmer before adding the beans and wait.  Just wait.  Maybe toy with the settings on your humble little camera, being careful to keep the spoon you've been using to sample the whole thing out of frame... what?  I didn't say anything.  Move along, nothing to see here.

Continue being patient.  Channel your inner monk/monkess.  (Yes, I know monkess isn't the female equivalent to monk, but it sounds pretty rad, right?)

As the ragout neared the finish line, and my stomach's growls could no longer be ignored, I had think quickly about how to serve it.  Much like a bolognese sauce, a ragout can be eaten on its own, but totally shines piled atop a plate of pasta, rice, or even polenta.  Already having a plan for a pasta dish later this week, I wanted to do something a little different for this meal.  Rice didn't seem quite right -- too small, likely to get lost in the veggies.  No polenta in the cupboard.  What aboooooooout... toast!  Yes!

Buried toast, to be more specific.  Letting all of the flavors soak into the bread, ready to be devoured.  Let's be even more specific, shall me?  This ragout was a totally surprising home run!  I expected it to be good, but not this good.  Ohmysweetgoodness kind of good!

The sweet chunky tomatoes and the tender mushrooms.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love mushrooms?  Incredibly tender onions with the lemony thyme and fragrant garlic.  And the white beans added such texture and "meat" to the dish that I totally forgot I wasn't even eating meat.  All atop a buttery piece of bread that played games with my mind and might as well have been pizza crust?  Heaven!

As I finished my plate a liiiiittle early (girl was hungry!), Matt arrived, which is about when I started shaking in my boots.  What would my meat and potatoes fiance think of a vegetarian dish after a long day teaching and in class?  I felt like Mikey's brothers from the Life cereal commercials, waiting to see his reaction...

He loved it!  "It tastes just like pizza!" he exclaimed.  "And it's actually satisfying... weird since there is no meat in here."  And then, when he realized I was taking his picture, decided to ham it up just a bit.  Yep, that's my future husband right there :) 

Vegetarian Mushroom & White Bean Ragout
(adapted, slightly, from Cookin' Canuck)
-serves 4

A few notes: Dara's original recipe called for crimini (baby portobellos) mushrooms, but I substituted white mushrooms because they were on sale.  Also, as mentioned above, you can serve the ragout over pasta, rice, polenta, basically any grain that strikes your fancy.  Maybe even quinoa or barley.  Think outside of the box!  Thanks to Dara at Cookin' Canuck for the delicious recipe!

3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium white onions, chopped
16 oz. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, juices discarded
1 (14 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan set over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are very tender, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and juices and cook until the mixture starts to thicken, about 10 minutes.

Stir in beans and cook until beans are warmed through, about 10 minutes. Serve over toasted bread.

The ragout can be made up to 2 days in advance. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving.

1 comment:

  1. Looks great! It's nice to cut out meat every once in a while : )