Week Night Yum Yum: Polenta with Arugula and Balsamic Portobello Mushrooms

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I know the picture sucks, but this is so yummy and good. Vegetarian, lighter fare, healthy (thank you polenta!) and most importantly -- delicious, this meal comes together in a little over a half hour making it perfect for weeknight meals. If you're in Lent now (as we are), then omit the cream to make it a Friday-friendly food. If not, then proceed with cream and as much parmesan as you can handle!

The addition of cream and parmesan makes an otherwise uneventful polenta super creamy and decadent. Using broth adds immense flavor, and is instantly the difference between good polenta and bad polenta. Arugula adds a nice, slightly peppery bite and great unexpected color, not to mention vitamins and minerals. To makes this a meal I top the polenta with meaty sliced portobello mushrooms that have been sauteed in good olive oil, garlic, and rosemary. Together it's a perfect meal, easy to pull together on a week night and delicious enough for a weekend treat. Enjoy!

Polenta with Arugula and Balsamic Portobello Mushrooms
for the polenta:
2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken)
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup good quality polenta
1 cup arugula
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

for the mushrooms:
2 large portobello mushrooms, stems cut off
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
3/4 Tbs fresh rosemary leaves (about the amount off of one small stem)
good imported balsamic vinegar

To prepare the polenta, place the broth in a saucepan and bring up to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and add salt and polenta all at once. Whisk vigorously -- careful, the mixture will pop up towards you once you introduce the cold polenta into the hot broth, but will die down in seconds. Whisk constantly for 5 minutes on low heat. Switch to a wooden spoon and continue to cook on low heat another 20 minutes, or until polenta is smooth and cooked through (doesn't have a gritty taste anymore). Once cooked, fold in the arugula and cream. The heat from the polenta will cause the arugula to wilt and turn a nice dark green. Add the cheese all at once and stir to combine. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

To prepare the mushrooms, take the mushroom caps and slice them into 1/4" thick slices. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan until hot. Add the mushrooms and toss in oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and continue to cook stirring only once or twice, about 8 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked through and have a nice caramelization. Add the garlic and rosemary leaves and continue to cook another 2 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning the garlic and rosemary. Turn heat down to low and remove pan from heat. Add a good splash of vinegar (about 1/8 of a cup or so) and return the pan to the heat (you're removing the pan because the acid in the vinegar will cause it to splatter up and bubble up very quickly and violently; this way is safer). Cook on low heat, tossing the mushrooms in the balsamic to coat. You'll notice the vinegar will begin to reduce and get more concentrated. Once this happens and the mushrooms are nicely coated, remove from pan and serve. Serve hot or room temperature.

To serve, plate hot polenta into bowls then top with some of the mushrooms.

*You can also make these seperately. Serve the polenta on its own and the mushrooms on toasted chiabatta bread for a delicious bruschetta appetizer.

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