nosh friday: pumpkin and leek polenta
I know, I know…the third week in a row with a gourd-related recipe. But it’s FALL! And in the fall, you eat PUMPKIN and SQUASH and all sorts of other oddly (and often inappropriately) shaped vegetables. It’s WHAT YOU DO, GUYS.
(Goodness, lots of capital letters today. I must be feeling bossy.)
This recipe came to me in a flash of inspiration one night this week — also known as “I bought this giant, giant, GIANT leek at the farmers’ market today; now what the heck do I do with it?” That, combined with cleaning out my pantry and finding a large bag of cornmeal, I thought polenta sounded perfect. Throw in a little leftover pumpkin from yet another round of pumpkin swirl brownies and POW! Dinner.
(Seriously, look at this leek. I put it next to my whisk handle to show you how monstrous this beast was.)
Of course, food is always, always better when shared. The moment was opportune, as my dearest chef friend Amanda is getting married this week and has been running around in a panic, and I was due to go over and pick something up. Along with a bottle of wine, I thought polenta might be a welcome distraction.
Turned out I was right. Troubles melt away when a big, steamy bowl of goodness sits in front of you. Toss on a few toasted hazelnuts and a handful of grated Parmesean and Amanda told me she wished she could marry me, too.
Pumpkin and Leek Polenta
1 large leek, dark green ends trimmed
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
Splash apple cider vinegar
Splash white wine
3 c. water
2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. cornmeal
1 c. pumpkin puree
Salt, to taste
Toasted hazelnuts, optional garnish
Cut the leek in half and rinse well in cold water. Leeks hold a lot of dirt and sand, so rinse very well and thoroughly. Heat the olive oil and one tablespoon of the butter in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Slice the leeks thinly and cook in the hot oil and butter for about 10-15 minutes, until soft and lightly caramelized. Add in the vinegar and white wine, letting it bubble and reduce for about 2-3 minutes. (This was sort of an accident, adding both, but it gave the polenta a wonderful light tang.) Once reduced, add the pumpkin to the pan, combine, and turn the heat off.
As the leeks are cooking, bring the water and milk to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, add a generous pinch of salt. Pour the cornmeal in gradually, in a steady stream, whisking constantly to keep lumps from forming. Keep whisking as it thickens. Mine thickened REALLY fast (about 2-3 minutes). Cook until it’s thick, but not stiff. Taste to see if the cornmeal is tender. If it’s getting too thick too fast, add more milk or water to help thin it out.
Once the polenta is cooked, turn off the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter, stirring to melt it. Combine the two mixtures, stirring well until fully combined. Serve generously in bowls or a side dish, topped with toasted hazelnuts and a grating of fresh Parmesean (don’t let me catch you using that sawdust in the green shaker bottle).
Serves 4-6 people