On cold winter days it can be hard to balance cravings of rich comfort food with the need to eat healthier, so I try to start by day right with a healthy breakfast to allow for indulgences at other times. Keeping a stock of frozen berries to add to yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies not only serves as a health boost but as a day brightener as well.

I also keep a steady supply of broths and stocks in my pantry and freezer so I can throw together a quick soup or a creamy and rich polenta like the one I made recently. While I prefer to make my own when I can (especially my beloved mushroom stock), the store-bought stuff works well too. Just be sure to buy low-sodium if available to control the salt content in the final dish.

Mushrooms serve double duty in this dish, with mushroom stock in the polenta and sliced mushrooms in the ragout, but chicken or vegetable stock work well too if you don’t want as much mushroom flavor. It’s important to cook the polenta over a slow simmer to get to the right thick yet creamy consistency. As always, a poached egg on top helps to add additional protein if desired, but I skipped it in favor of loading my bowl with extra polenta.

(credit: Crystal Grobe)

(credit: Crystal Grobe)

Mushroom Ragout Over Polenta

(serves 4)

3/4 cups coarse cornmeal
4 cups mushroom stock
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 package fresh sage leaves, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tbsp butter
16 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 cup diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 bag of baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, whisk together cornmeal and mushroom stock and stir over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until polenta is thick and creamy, about 45 minutes.

In a small frying pan, heat olive oil over high heat. Once hot, add sage leaves and fry for 1-2 minutes. Remove sage leaves to a paper towel and reserve sage leaves and olive oil.

In a large skillet, melt butter and add reserved olive oil. Add onions and sauté until onions are transparent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook until liquid is released, about 10 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, spinach, and white wine and cook until thick, about 10 minutes. Serve over polenta, season to taste, and garnish with fried sage leaves.


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