Chard, beet and dandelion greens are at their spring best right now, and they give this vegetarian main dish a nutritional punch. Susan Belsinger’s delicious polenta recipe, first published in Natural Home & Garden, can be served homestyle straight from the pot—soft and thick—with the topping spooned over all, or prepared in advance. If you’re short on time, buy prepared polenta at the grocery store.
Polenta with Leeks, Wilted Greens and Mushrooms
11/2 quarts water
11/2 teaspoons salt
11/2 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
Bring water to boil in a large nonreactive pot. Add salt and slowly stir cornmeal into 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.
To mold, pour polenta into 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 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.
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
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 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.
Sauté or grill mushrooms with a little olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms just start to give up their juices, 3 to 5 minutes for most types; do not overcook. Set aside.
Reheat polenta squares on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a 375°F oven if necessary.
Place polenta squares in a serving dish or on individual plates. Top with greens mixture, then mushrooms. Salt and pepper generously. Serve immediately.
Use the freshest greens you can find--spinach, chard, dandelion or beet--for this nutritious vegetarian meal. Photo by Joe Coca