This Cheesy Polenta with asparagus and wild leeks is super tasty. Polenta is typically made from yellow corn, which is delightfully loaded with carotenoids – the special compounds that are responsible for the red, orange, and yellow pigments in fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. Carotenoids, and specifically beta-carotene, are also believed to enhance the function of the immune system.
Keep in mind that carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds, meaning that they must be eaten with fat to be absorbed by the body. Your intake of carotenoids may be compromised by a low-fat diet, or if you have a condition that inhibits fat absorption. To ensure that you are absorbing carotenoids it is a good idea to include healthy sources of fat in your meal, such as a drizzle of olive oil or other plant-based fat. Luckily with this dish, we’ve got you covered.
We generally recommend purchasing certified organic foods whenever possible, but I think it is especially important in the case of corn. Organic corn is non-GMO and does not contain any harmful pesticide residues. All of these ingredients are in the green tiered category. Adding chicken is also a great way to up the protein in this meal.
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- Heat the vegetable broth (water is fine) and a good pinch of sea salt in a large saucepan until simmering. Slowly pour in the polenta in a steady stream, whisking all the while to prevent clumping. Stir constantly for a couple minutes, reduce heat and simmer. Stir every five minutes or so. If the polenta becomes too thick, add hot water and whisk in.
- While the polenta is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Finely dice the onions. Wash, trim and cut the asparagus on the diagonal into 1” (2.5 cm) pieces. Wash and pick over wild leek leaves, and save any flowers for garnish. Shell peas.
- When you are about 15 minutes away from serving, heat a little ghee or coconut oil in a large skillet add the onions, and a pinch of salt. Fry over medium heat until golden (about 10 minutes). Next add the peas and asparagus. Cook for 2-3 minutes, just until their raw edge has disappeared (add a little water if the pan is very dry, which will help to steam the veggies). Then add the wild leeks and wilt. Squeeze half a lemon over the top. Season to taste.
- You can tell the polenta is cooked when you rub a small amount of it between your fingers and it is no longer gritty, approximately 30-45 minutes (read the label on your own box for cooking time approximations). The final consistency should be creamy and smooth. Add the grated cheese to the polenta if desired, and give it a final stir. Add a little milk or water to thin if necessary. Season to taste.
- To serve, scoop a portion of polenta onto a plate then add the cooked vegetables. Add shaved Pecorino Romano if desired, a drizzle of quality olive oil, and a wedge of lemon on the side. Rejoice.