Monday, July 20, 2015

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 17: cheesy polenta + veggies

if i were to pick a new favorite food, it would definitely be polenta. now, polenta isnt exactly the most exciting thing on its own (as my mom put it, its just yellow grits), but its so versatile: you can bake it, fry it, mix things into it, or top it with almost anything and it always turns out delicious. 

unfortunately polenta has a reputation for being really fussy (some recipes involve forty minutes of stirring), so, being as easily intimidated as i am, i tended to consider it a "restaurant only" food. but, you know, sometimes you just NEED some polenta, and you dont have the time or money to go out to the fancy steakhouse with the $20 grilled polenta and veggies thats just SO amazing. so you start looking around at sprouts and find that the little log of pre-made polenta that barely makes one dinner is like $5. which, yeah is a lot less than it would cost at a restaurant, but still, its not cheap. 

except, sprouts sells dry polenta in the bulk section. and its super cheap. like, i got a HUGE bag (that lasted for months) for like $4. and after a little bit of research and experimentation, ive come to find out that polenta isnt actually all that fussy to make. so now polenta, which used to be reserved for birthdays and special occasions, has become a quick and easy weeknight dinner. is there anything better than that? no. no there is not. 

even though you technically can do all kinds of crazy things with polenta, my favorite way to eat it is warm and soft and freshly made, with some sautéed veggies on top. sometimes ill make this on its own for dinner, but its also a great side dish with say, some salmon. and thats what todays recipe is: 

cheesy polenta with veggies. 
(serves 4 as a meal, more as a side dish)

heres what you need: 

1 cup dried polenta
4 cups water
1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional, if you omit the cheese this recipe is entirely vegan)
olive oil
1 small/medium onion
4 cloves garlic
salt, pepper, and herbs de provence to taste
1 bunch asparagus
1 package white mushrooms

heres what you do: 

in a medium/large pot, bring 4 cups salted water to a boil, add polenta, stir, and return to a boil. 

reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally (contrary to popular belief polenta does NOT need to be stirred constantly however it will stick if you dont stir it at all), until almost all of the water has absorbed and grains are cooked through (approximately 10-15 minutes) 

remove from heat, stir in cheese (entirely optional but i really think it improves the flavor and texture), and set aside. 

finely chop onions and garlic and sautee in olive oil until they begin to soften, seasoning with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence to your preference. 

cut the asparagus and mushrooms into small pieces, add to onion and garlic mixture, and continue to cook until the onions are caramelized and the vegetables are cooked through. 

serve the polenta in bowls with the vegetable mixture on top. 

do you have a favorite fancy restaurant food that you learned to make at home? id love to hear about it in the comments!
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