With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, it’s a good reminder that cooking for others is one of the best ways to show you care. When you serve a meal that both delights and nourishes the one you love, you’re trying to keep that person happy for the long haul.
So you might as well say I love you with heart-shaped whole-grain polenta, floating on a bed of French lentils and rosemary-infused tomato ragout. It goes really well with a glass of red wine, too.
This simple, do-ahead dish relies on a few stellar ingredients for flavor. Bob’s Red Mill makes a coarsely ground polenta that is packed with buttery corn flavor and a toothsome texture. The brilliant golden color is a plus, too. If you can’t find Bob’s, look for a coarsely ground, whole-grain cornmeal. Then you just need a sturdy wooden spoon and the patience to stir the polenta as it thickens in the pot.
For the ragout, real French lentils are a must. Look for lentils labeled as French, Puy or Beluga (all varieties of French), which are smaller, more spherical and darker in color than typical brown or green lentils. French lentils hold their shape when cooked, and have a nutty, rich flavor that is very different from the common lentil. They are fantastic when bathed in an herb-infused sauce like this. To preserve their shape, you’ll cook them just until tender, then add them to the sauce just before serving.
Fresh rosemary is a must, with its fragrant leaves that give the tomato sauce depth. Good extra-virgin olive oil gives the sauce the fruity, peppery flavor we love and a rich mouthfeel.
This dish can be prepped ahead and assembled at the last minute, making it perfect for date night. Broiling the polenta and reheating the ragout just takes a few minutes. That way you can save your energy for the rest of the evening.
Make this Valentine’s Day meatless, but don’t forget the chocolate!
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.