This is a quick and easy meal you can throw together in 20 minutes if you have the ingredients in your pantry. The key is to use a polenta that is quick-cooking but not instant. The instant stuff has been parboiled and doesn’t taste too great.
My favorite is an organic Argentinian polenta from de la Estancia. It is very finely ground and cooks in just a minute, with a very fresh corn taste. (Amazon has a good deal on it but you have to buy 6 packages. You can also find it at Whole Foods.)
You don’t absolutely have to have the syrupy aged balsamic vinegar for this dish, but it greatly elevates it. Don’t substitute the unaged grocery store variety – unless you reduce it with some sugar to make a syrup, but we’ll talk about that another time. The good stuff is expensive, but even a teaspoon of it is a big treat, so it actually goes a long way.
I guess expensive is relative though. If you want to send me a two thousand dollar bottle, I’ll let you know my shipping address.
Polenta With Asparagus And Olives
Vegetarian and gluten-free; vegan if you omit the cheese
- 2 c. polenta
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- olive oil
- 1/2 c. good olives, pitted and chopped coarsely
- parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano – 1/2 c. grated, plus more cut with a vegetable peeler for garnish
- aged balsamic
- Put 6 c. of water on to boil with 1 t. of salt. (This is for the de la Estancia polenta; if using another type of polenta, follow an appropriate recipe).
- Put the serving bowls in a warm oven to preheat.
- Break off the woody ends of the asparagus, and cut into bite sized lengths. Saute at high heat in olive oil along with the garlic and a couple pinches of salt until tender or to your preferred texture. Add the olives, saute for a minute more, and turn off the heat.
- Whisk the polenta into the boiling water and stir continuously until it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the grated parmesan.
- To serve, put 1/4 of the polenta in each of the warmed bowls, top with 1/4 of the asparagus mixture, some thin curls of parmesan, salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle on some of the aged balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.