I’m a sucker for impulse buys at the grocery store, especially in the checkout aisle. The other day, I was waiting in line and I saw a magazine, The Coastal Table. It was thick, heavy and cost more than most books I buy, but the cover sold me. It was a beautifully shot picture of a wooden bowl with sesame seeds and chopsticks.
Yes, that’s all.
But I knew from looking at that picture that the rest of the magazine would be a good lesson in food photography. And I guessed that there were probably some recipes worth checking out.
I was right. There was a whole section of the magazine devoted to asparagus, and every dish sounded better than the next. I’ve been on a polenta kick lately, so I decided to try the recipe for spring vegetable polenta with feta.
The original recipe calls for using vegetable stock, but I used a mix of chicken and vegetable stock to take the flavor profile up a notch. I also subbed in a shallot for the onion, because I was feeling in a shallot-y kind of mood.
The star in this dish is the leek. It’s soft, caramely and the perfect match for the rich, creamy polenta. The peas and asparagus add some crunch, and the feta keeps things fresh.
My boss, Aude, just told me about this French artist named Brigitte. At first, I thought she was talking about Brigitte Bardot, but it turns out that it’s two sisters. They kind of remind me of the French equivalent of HAIM. Here’s a good primer.
Spring Vegetable Polenta (slightly adapted from The Coastal Table)
4-5 cups low-sodium chicken and/or vegetable stock (I used 2 cups of each)
kosher salt, to taste
1 cup polenta
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 leek, white and light green parts, trimmed and chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 shallots, finely diced
1/4 bunch fresh asparagus (about 6 stalks), trimmed and cut into 1-inch rounds
1/2 cup fresh peas
crumbled feta cheese, for serving
In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups stock and a pinch of salt to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and slowly stir in polenta, whisking as you go to prevent lumps. Continue to cook until mixture has thickened, about 15-20 minutes, whisking often to prevent lumps. Check polenta by rubbing a small amount of it between your fingers. If it’s not gritty, it’s done. If it’s too thick add a little more stock or water. Add butter and stir for another 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Place leeks in a sieve and rinse under cold water several times to remove dirt. Pat completely dry and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add shallot and leek and cook until softened, 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add asparagus and peas and cook until bright green, about 5 minutes.
To serve, scoop a portion of polenta into a shallow bowl, and top with vegetables, followed by feta cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4 (there’s a lot…trust me)