Vegetable Polenta Bowl
Meatless meals have been some of my favorite dishes to create. Not relying on a protein to be the star of the show results in a more creative process for me when I’m cooking. And coaxing flavors from simple veggies? That’s the good stuff.
Growing up, I was a terribly picky eater. It was ridiculous. I didn’t even eat sweet corn until I got to college since I couldn’t afford to eat a standard meat and starch meal and had to live off super cheap foods (which included tons of ramen, rice, and steamable veggie bags). Rice and buttery corn was my go-to then. Nowadays, you could put practically any vegetable on my plate and I’d inhale it immediately, no questions asked.
This veggie bowl was a sure-fire hit for me, creation wise. I made it on a whim, inspired by vegetable skillets and creamy grits we serve at work during brunch shifts. That week, I’d grown tired of eating chicken and beef for the past few days in a row, so I wanted something filling and hearty without the fuss of shelling out money for protein and cooking meat up to temperature (especially after work). So, I figured I would put a ton of sautéed veggies on polenta. Win-Win.
There are two components to this dish: the polenta (corn meal) and vegetables. The polenta is straight forward, following package instructions and just doctoring up the liquid its cooked in. The vegetable cooking in this recipe works in batches, allowing all the veggies to have maximum flavor and texture while avoiding mushiness. I made sure to have a big bowl next to the stove to dump the vegetables in after each round.
Note: This recipe is definitely vegetarian and can easily be made vegan by omitting the butter and Greek yogurt in the polenta!
Vegetable Polenta Bowl
Cook time: 30-45 minutes
1/2 large yellow onion
2 small bay leaves
Yellow corn meal (I used fine ground because it’s what I had on hand)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
Follow the package instructions to cook the polenta. For the liquid, I brought equal parts vegetable broth and water up to a boil with the onion and bay leaves. Before adding the corn meal, remove the onion and bay leaf and discard. Set aside and keep warm. Before serving, fold in the butter and Greek yogurt. This will result in a super creamy base for the crunchy veggies.
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 container sliced baby portabella mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus, cut on bias
1 can sweet yellow corn, well-drained
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 can cannellini beans, drained
2 small leeks, sliced into half moons
2 large garlic cloves, whole
2 small pints grape tomatoes
1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar, to taste
1 tbsp Gourmet Collection Roast Vegetable Seasoning Blend, to taste
In a large cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed frying pan, add the coconut oil. Over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms until they are crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. You want to get a good sear on them, so don’t stir them too much and don’t season them. Once they’re nice and crusty, set aside into a large mixing bowl.
Next, add the asparagus and any additional coconut oil as needed. Sauté until tender but still crunchy, for about 4-5 minutes. Season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Set aside in the mixing bowl with the mushrooms.
To the same pan, add the drained yellow corn and season with the smoked paprika. Stir well until heated through and put into the same bowl with the mushrooms and asparagus.
Following that, add a little bit more coconut oil to the pan as needed and sauté the drained cannellini beans, sliced leeks, and whole garlic cloves. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to your liking. Cook for about 8-10 minutes until the beans are warm and the leeks are slightly translucent. Pick out the garlic cloves and discard. Add the bean mixture to the remaining vegetables in the big mixing bowl.
Finally, cook the grape tomatoes. If your pan needs to be wiped out, go ahead and do that if needed. Add another spoon or two of coconut oil and add the grape tomatoes into the pan (work in batches here if necessary in case your pan isn’t large enough to hold two pints together). Liberally season with kosher salt. Tomatoes love salt. Trust me on this one. Stir the tomatoes for about 7 minutes or until some of them start to blister and burst. You want to keep them mostly intact for serving but want some of their juice for the veggie mixture. Add the tomatoes the big veggie bowl you have working.
Here is where you’re going to gently fold the vegetables together to make them happy. Adjust any seasonings with kosher salt and black pepper. Add the red wine vinegar to pump up the brightness and the vegetable seasoning blend to round out the flavors a bit (if you can’t find this particular blend, add some paprika and turmeric if you have those on hand). Whatever is clever!
Serve the vegetable blend over the warm, creamy polenta and bask in the healthy, vegetable goodness.