Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vegetarian Creamy Farmer's Market Polenta

Typically, polenta is hearty and creamy and usually not summer weather fare, but if you mix in some super-fresh produce and herbs, it can definitely be the perfect meal after a trip to the farmer's market.

Where, of course, I had just gone and picked up some grape tomatoes, garlic scapes, zucchini, and fresh basil. So what went into this meal was a complete no-brainer. The polenta was the longest and, well, hottest part so make sure you have plenty of ventilation. If you want to make this go quicker, have all the stuff for the vegetables cut up and ready to go into this vegetarian dish as you stir the polenta.

To make the polenta:

I find that a 1:6 polenta:water ratio makes a really nice creamy consistency. You can use your preferred ratio or do some research to find one that works best for you.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a heavy bottom pot. (It helps prevent burning that may happen with a thin bottomed pot.) Season well with salt. Pour in 1 cup polenta in a nice thin stream while either whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon rapidly to prevent any lumps from forming. (Lumps formed for me so I just pressed them against the side of the pot to break them up, haha.) Then, bring it down to a simmer and stir frequently to prevent sticking. You will need to cook it for about 45 minutes if not more, then read below for the finishing touches.

For the vegetables:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large leek, washed and chopped
2 carrots sliced into 1/4" pieces
2 celery sliced into 1/4" pieces
2 large zucchini halved and sliced into 1/4" pieces
3 garlic scapes sliced thinly
1/2 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
A few leaves of basil, torn into small pieces

Either before you make the polenta or while you're making it, heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium low heat. Add the leek, carrots, and celery and cook until slightly softened. Then, add in the zucchini, the dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste, and let cook until slightly softened as well. Once's that's done, I throw in the garlic scape, let it saute for 30 seconds, then pour in the grape tomatoes. Let that cook together until the tomatoes have popped and everything is tender, about 10 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning if desired. Set aside until the polenta's done.

When the polenta is nearly done, it will be thick, creamy, and leave the sides of the pot as you stir it. Taste it and season with a little bit of salt and pepper. Pour in about a couple tbsp of olive oil to help keep it soft and loose. Then, while it's still over the heat, pour in the cooked vegetables and stir well.

To serve: Scoop the vegetable and polenta into a bowl, top with a drizzle of yummy olive oil, and garnish with pieces of basil.

Tip: Keep a well oiled casserole dish by to pour your leftovers into. Polenta will harden as it cools so move fast. Then, you can cut slices of it once cool and panfry it with a chunky tomato sauce or a garlic infused olive oil drizzle for the next day.

It was a hit in my house and I hope it becomes a hit in yours! Will you make it? What would you do differently? Write in the comments below, I'd love to hear your take!

As a disclaimer: I cook like most people, by the handfuls and pinches and tasting and adjusting and tasting. The measurements are my best, best, best estimates so you should take this as a canvas for your own preferences. Add more oregano, use an Italian herb mix, switch up the vegetables, use two big tomatoes, whatever you like!

P.S. I just realized that this meal is not only vegetarian, but vegan as well. Although, if you want to add cheese, that's fine by me!


  1. Looks good Beah. I love polenta...I may try this but nothing nothing beats Michael Symon's polenta at Lolita. I have dreams about that stuff! ;)

    1. Thanks! Michael Symon's is really good indeed, but it's definitely not something you can eat everyday! Haha. At least this is something a little bit healthier so you don't have to feel so bad eating it!