Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Creamy Polenta with Kale, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

Creamy Polenta with Kale, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes
I don't remember ever having polenta growing up, but it's a pretty fun dish to eat.  It reminds me of cream of wheat except it is corn based as opposed to wheat based.  This meal is soft and comforting, with a TON of vegetables.   And by a ton of vegetables I mean that 4 pounds of vegetables are in this meal (which serves 4 people).  Crazy!  The polenta is the soft and comforting part of the meal, and the vegetables add lots of flavor.  The mushrooms in particular are key because they provide a meaty texture to this vegetarian dish.  This recipe is based on one that I found in the America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, which has been a great recipe source for me.  The original recipe calls for spinach, but I've come to prefer the hearty texture of kale to spinach when cooked.  

When I first saw this recipe in the cookbook, I didn't exactly know what polenta was.  Here is what I have learned... polenta is really just cornmeal, but it's processed in a specific way that helps it to cook correctly into polenta.  When I buy polenta, I buy a product that is called polenta.  Just be careful that you don't buy a par-cooked polenta because that is not what you want!  The polenta should look like a grain (like cornmeal).  Apparently you can substitute medium or coarse cornmeal for polenta, but it should not be stone-ground cornmeal.  But like I said, I've only ever used a product that is actually called polenta...  so if you can only find cornmeal I'd say just get it and give it a try.  

This is a great meal to have every so often.  It's comforting, yet I always feel great eating it since there are SO MANY vegetables.  :)

Creamy Polenta with Kale, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

Serves: 4


For Polenta:
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup course-ground polenta (*see notes above about polenta*)
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon earth balance (or butter)
  • salt and pepper
For Vegetables:
  • 2 pounds baby portobella mushrooms, brushed clean, stems trimmed, cut into quarters or halves
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound kale, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup water (or stock)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


1)  Combine the mushrooms, onion, olive oil, rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large pot over medium-low heat. Cover and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are softened. 

2)  Meanwhile.... for polenta, bring water to a boil in a small pot.  Add polenta slowly, mixing constantly in a circle the whole time with a wooden spoon.  Bring back to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring well occasionally, until  polenta is thickened and smooth.   This should take about 10 minutes.   Add Parmesan cheese and earth balance and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Keep warm until ready to use.  

3)  Meanwhile, once the mushrooms are softened, uncover the pot and raise  heat to medium-high.  Continue to cook until there is no liquid in the pot and the mushrooms are slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

4)  Add the kale in batches, stirring after each batch as the kale starts to wilt.  Add water to help kale reduce (I needed about 1/2 cup-- you definitely don't want it to become watery).    Once all the kale has been added and wilted and reduced, add the tomatoes.  Cook for 1-2 minutes and then season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.

5)  Serve vegetables over polenta.  Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.

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