It’s that glorious time of year when flowers are blooming, the sky is filled with lacy branches of trees sprouting blossoms and buds, and New Englanders can finally start eating things that are growing near us. I just planted my lettuce and herb gardens (with a few jalapeño plants to load up the top of Asian noodle bowls). And we can’t get enough of the birds singing, its the most beautiful music.
One of the most exciting signs of spring for foodies around the world is when morels pop up in forest floors and on the edges of a forest. (If you’re curious about hunting for them here is a great guide.) You can dry them and reconstitute them if you can’t use them all, which is what I used for this recipe.
I recently saw a picture of roasted veggies on top of polenta somewhere and I wasn’t able to get it out of my mind. It just seemed the perfect combination of creaminess and flavor and textures.
Turns out I was right.
Two things surprised me about this dish –
1) Just how good rosemary is in polenta! It perfumes the dish and is wonderful. You can use other herbs too of course but I loved the rosemary with the parmesan and the veggies.
2) The vinaigrette that I found from Bobby Flay. Who knew a vinaigrette would finish this off perfectly? I even played around and tried straight balsamic on some, and some balsamic cream, but the vinagrette was the best. I also used all olive oil since I didn’t have walnut oil, and I didn’t sauté the morels though I wish I did! Somehow missed that in my excitement to pile up a bowl of all this deliciousness.
This is a very versatile dish – use whatever veggies and herbs you love. I hope you try this, it is so easy and yet assembled feels very fancy. Here’s to morels and spring and good food in our farmers markets!
Happy Eating! xoxo Katie
Rosemary Polenta with Morel Vinaigrette and Roasted Vegetables
For the roasted vegetables:
1 eggplant, cut into 2 inch pieces
2-3 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 red onion, cut into wedges
(Optional vegetable: parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes)
3 T. Olive oil
1 t. Salt & ½ t. Pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine, then place in hot oven for 20 minutes or until fork tender, turning half way through. (Cooking time will depend on size of vegetables).
For the polenta:
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 t. fresh rosemary or 2 T. dried rosemary
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter
Place the chicken stock in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gradually whisk in the cornmeal until it’s combined and there are no lumps. Add the salt, pepper, and rosemary and simmer, stirring almost constantly, for 10 minutes, until thick. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan thoroughly while you’re stirring. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan and butter. Taste for seasonings and serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.
For the Morel Vinaigrette: ( from Bobby Flay):
¼ cup aged sherry vinegar
1 small shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon walnut oil
3/4 cup pure olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound morel mushrooms, washed thoroughly and dried (can use reconstituted morels).
In a blender, blend the vinegar, shallot, and mustard until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the walnut oil and 1/2 cup of the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into a medium bowl and set aside.
Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove the mushrooms from the heat and coarsely chop them. Fold the mushrooms into the vinaigrette. Spoon the vinaigrette over the grilled polenta.
To serve, spoon each element into a bowl – polenta, then veggies, then vinaigrette plus any herbs you like and grated parm.