Spinach can be used for this dish, but chard, beet, and dandelion greens are even better this time of year—and they add wonderful nutrients. The herbs in the polenta add a sprightly flavor; use one or a combination. The polenta can be served homestyle straight from the pot—soft and thick—with the topping spooned over all, or prepared in advance as described here. If time is short, buy prepared polenta at the grocery store. While your topping is cooking, slice and sauté or grill the polenta.
For more light, fresh recipes see Spring Fresh: Light Spring Recipes.
Polenta Recipe with Leeks, Wilted Greens and Mushrooms
• 1 1/2 quarts water
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
• 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
• About 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley and chives
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 leeks, rinsed and cleaned, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
• 2 bunches beet greens and 1 bunch chard, spinach, or dandelion greens, cleaned, stems removed, and chopped (or use an equivalent amount of spinach only)
• 3 large cloves garlic, minced
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• About 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms: oyster, morels, shiitake, or cremini, cleaned and sliced
To Make Polenta:
1. Bring the water to a boil in 1 large nonreactive pot. Add salt and slowly stir the cornmeal into the boiling water in a steady stream, stirring continuously. When the mixture begins to bubble, reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring regularly so that it doesn’t stick, for 35 to 40 minutes; stir the garlic, herbs, and Parmesan in during the last 5 to 10 minutes. The polenta should be thick. At this point, it can be served hot or molded and cooled as follows.
2. If molded, pour the polenta into a lightly oiled loaf pan. When cool, turn out of the pan and slice 5/8-inch thick, then cut each slice in half. Lightly brush the squares with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet under the broiler, on a griddle over medium heat, or on a grill over a medium hot fire. Depending on your heat source, the polenta should be cooked for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until it is golden brown on the edges. Assemble the dish immediately or reheat the polenta when you are ready to assemble.
To Make Topping:
1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chard and beet stems, stir, and sauté for 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir for a minute. Add greens, cover, and let wilt for a few minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and season generously with salt and pepper.
2. Sauté or grill the mushrooms with a little olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Cook them until they just start to give up their juices, 3 to 5 minutes for most types will do; do not overcook. Set aside.
3. Reheat the polenta squares on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a 375°F oven if necessary.
Place the polenta squares in a serving dish or on individual plates. Top with greens mixture, and then the mushrooms. Salt and pepper generously. Serve immediately. Serves 6