Here is a star side dish for you ! My new friend Yotam has kindly shared his recipe for Asparagus with Polenta in The Guardian. Everything about this dish is pleasing to me at this time of the year - the bright colors of the polenta and asparagus, the lemon zest brightness that's added as a hint in the polenta and a flash of citrus to the garnish, the nutty crunch that comes with each bite. It's Spring on a plate for me.
There are a couple things that I will change, though, the next time I make the dish. Ottolenghi has you toss a crushed clove of garlic with the nuts and then set them aside until you plate the dish. I think I will definitely toast the nuts and then add just a touch of butter and the garlic to the hot pan next time. I think this will spread the garlic into the nuts more effectively. Another change will be the types of cheese used in the creamy polenta - Yotam likes Stilton or a blue cheese, but I really love smoked Gouda ... there will be a switch next time. Otherwise, oh my gosh, this is a lovely dish!
Cooking with grains is this week's theme at the I Heart Cooking Club and this is an easy and delicious way to have your grains and veggies too! A roast of chicken or a hearty steak would sit nicely along side, if you must have your meat. A bit of salad would go just as nicely, though! The star of the plate is definitely the polenta and its toppings. Head over to the cooking club's page to see what others are serving up this week, as we go with the grains!
Ottolenghi’s Asparagus with Polenta
16 spears of fresh asparagus
2 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
30 g. chopped walnuts
1 small clove garlic, peeled and smashed
100 g. polenta grits
½ liter water
20 g, unsalted butter
20 g. good Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
20 g. Stilton (or blue cheese), crumbled
Grated zest of one lemon plus 2 tsp. lemon juice
40 g. sour cream
1 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
Making the Dish:
- Wash and break the lower tough stems from the asparagus. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, then refresh in cold water. Drain and set aside on paper towels to air dry.
- Measure the water into a deep heavy sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and sprinkle in the polenta, stirring to be sure its broken up. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and partially cover the pan. Stir frequently to keep the polenta from sticking and to gauge the thickness.
- While the polenta simmers, toss the walnuts with the smashed garlic in a small bowl and set it aside, chop the parsley, zest the lemon and squeeze the juice.
- When the polenta is smooth and perfectly ‘chewy’, stir in the butter, half the lemon zest, and the cheeses. Turn off the heat and cover the pan.
- Heat a grill pan over high heat, drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil and black pepper over the asparagus spears and grill them until they are hot and have grill marks. They should still have some crunch to the bite.
- When they are almost perfect, plate the polenta by placing a generous dollop on each warm plate, sprinkle some nuts over top, add a dollop of sour cream.
- Place four spears of asparagus draping over the polenta, sprinkle on the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, black pepper, and a bit of chopped parsley.
- Serve as a starter or as a side with the rest of the meal.