For my culinary school graduation dinner at The Natural Gourmet Institute, our appetizer was soft polenta with cashew cream, truffle oil and roasted mushrooms. It was rich, earthy, decadent and addictive. A perfect winter dish.
Since then, I've tried to make various versions of that dish, using stone ground polenta available from the local farmers' market. With spring in mind, I decided to make soft polenta using fresh corn, peas, asparagus and a handful of herbs my friend Susan gave me that were growing on her beautiful Manhattan terrace.
If you're on a gluten-free diet, there is controversy as to whether corn products have gluten in them. Check with the manufacturer or your local farm to see if it there might be cross contamination. Corn is naturally gluten-free, but avoid buying corn or any corn product that is not organic, as most corn is GMO.
SPRING POLENTA WITH ASPARAGUS AND PEAS
Soaked polenta generally takes less time to cook. When finished, the dish should have the consistency of risotto.
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer.
4 cups water
1 cup polenta, soaked for an hour
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup sliced asparagus, ends snapped, cut into ½ inch slices
1/2 cup fresh peas or 1 cup frozen petit peas, thawed
1/2 cup fresh corn
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Leaves from 2 sprigs lemon thyme
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring four cups of water to boil in a medium sauce pan.
Slowly whisk in the polenta.
Add salt and garlic.
Lower the heat and stir occasionally until the polenta is cooked, at least 15-30 minutes. Add water if the polenta gets too thick.
Meanwhile while the polenta is cooking, saute the asparagus in olive oil in a large skillet. While the asparagus are still a bit firm, add the corn and peas.
. When the polenta is finished, and not sticking to the bottom of the pan, add the vegetables to the polenta pot, toss in the fresh herbs, and stir until mixed.
Serve in a bowl and stir in parmesan cheese to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.