Welcome! I hope you are as excited as I am about the new look and layout. I have two very special people to thank for all of this: first, Elliot, who found me a good server and made the initial transfer of the old blog, and secondly, Peter, who found this blog template and made all the fancy computer and graphic design decisions to bring it to where it is now. Hopefully everything is in order, and please give me feedback about it if you’d like. But without further ado, a fresh new recipe for all of you…
Spring is beginning to find its way to Minnesota, with nearly all the snow melted and more than a couple days in the 50s, which everyone around here is happy to have. I’ve even seen people in shorts and t-shirts, which seems a bit extreme to me, but I’m just happy to be able to be outside without a bajillion layers on and in regular old shoes instead of boots, and ecstatic to be riding my bike to work again.
A lot of the spring produce I think of hasn’t yet made its way to the co-op, though, and our farmer’s markets don’t open until April, so until asparagus and ramps and rhubarb are abundant I’m having to scale back slightly on my dreams for full-on vernal feasting and settle for adding more fresh herbs and greens to my meals, like I have here. I had hoped, you see, to create a full-on spring spread with multiple courses for my first new post, but realized it was better to make one good dish than overwhelm myself with the pressure of something that intense (though I may revisit the idea in a month or so!).
Since giving up corn a few months back, I instantly lamented the loss of tortilla chips and cornbread, and over time I’ll occasionally stumble across something corn-based that I’d forgotten about a bit. Like polenta. Luckily I remembered reading about other grain-based polentas and happily pulled out my jar of amaranth from the cupboard. Armed with leeks and mushrooms and fresh chives for a start, I set out on a mission to make something tasty and simple, which really is all I can realistically aspire to until the last of the winter blues get dusted off.
The leek-flavored amaranth is creamy, earthy and porridge-like, not like the firm polenta you buy in tubes at the store, and with balsamic-roasted mushrooms, toasted walnuts, and fresh greens, it’s hard to go wrong, isn’t it? This makes a great weekend lunch or weeknight supper, the longest wait being for the amaranth to finish cooking. Whip some up and dream about little shoots poking their way up through the dirt and leaf buds emerging on the tree limbs…I highly recommend it!
Leek and Amaranth Polenta
with Roasted Mushrooms, Walnuts, and Fresh Greens
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon coriander
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and thinly sliced
1 cup amaranth
3 cups vegetable stock
salt to taste
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
fresh lemon zest
a handful of arugula or other fresh greens per serving
fresh chopped chives
Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the mushrooms with the olive oil, balsamic, garlic, and spices in a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the juices have released and the mushrooms are beginning to brown (if the edges aren’t roasted to your liking you can pop them under the broiler for a few minutes, too).
Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a medium saucepan and cook the leeks until translucent and beginning to brown. Add the amaranth and vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally. After 30 or so minutes, most of the liquid should be absorbed and the amaranth will be creamy and porridge like. Stir, cooking, until desired thickness.
To serve, ladle some polenta into a wide, shallow bowl and top with a handful of greens, the roasted mushrooms, and the chopped walnuts. Sprinkle with lemon zest and fresh chives and serve warm.