Tag Archives: vegetarian entree

Cheesy Asparagus Tart

It’s summer! Well, maybe not technically for another week or so, but farmer’s market is booming and my CSA boxes started coming this week! Getting a box of fresh veggies from one of my favorite farms every week was one of the highlights of my summer last year and I could not wait to sign up again this year.

My first farm box was green, green, green. Lettuce, chard, kale, asparagus, spearmint, tarragon, spring onions, radishes and dried beans to round it out. There will be lots of salads this week. But first, this lovely tart I found in my Forest Feast cookbook. As far as using up fresh veg this summer, I have a feeling this book will be my constant companion. Beautifully illustrated and easy, easy recipes that really highlight the veggies. Asparagus season is almost over so this one was at the top of my list. It didn’t disappoint.

As usual, I played fast and loose with some of the ingredients based on what I had on hand. Feel free to do the same.

Asparagus Tart

Asparagus Tart

Asparagus Tart
(from The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson)

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (takes 30-40 minutes to thaw at room temp)
15-20 spears of asparagus
Goat cheese (or other soft cheese of your choice, she used Brie in the original recipe)
1 egg, beaten
Dried Italian seasoning or herbs of your choice
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. chopped walnuts or pine nuts
1 tbsp. capers
1-2 tbsp. parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚. Unfold the puff pastry and place on a cookie sheet (greased or lined with parchment). Spread cheese over the puff pastry. Drizzle the beaten egg over the cheese. Place asparagus spears in a row. Sprinkle with other ingredients. Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before slicing.

We served this with a salad and fruit for dinner (also perfect for lunch or brunch!). Using one sheet of puff pastry serves 3-4 people. Easily doubled for more, or can be cut into smaller pieces for appetizers.

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CSA Week 18: Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

Last week I picked up my last CSA box of the season. I will miss them! The best (and sometimes the most challenging) thing about these weekly farm boxes has been getting some unusual things that I would not normally buy. Like these baby beets with their greens. Baby beets? Greens? What the heck do I do with those? Luckily my farmer is great at offering suggestions for some of the more seldom seen ingredients. She suggested I cook them more like hardy greens such as rainbow chard, which is exactly what I did. I sliced the little beets, chopped the greens and stems and gave them a nice sauté in a bit of butter and olive oil. If you can’t find baby beets, you can use the regular ones. Try to find them with some fresh looking greens, chop them up and sauté along with the beets. Or if you’re not a beet fan, substitute some rainbow chard instead.

One of the things I love best with greens is polenta. It soaks up all the nice juices and adds a richness that balances the greens so nicely. I topped mine with some feta and olives and a few shakes of date balsamic. This stuff is wonderful. If you can’t find date balsamic (I bought mine at ilovedatelady.com), just use any balsamic glaze instead. The little touch of sweetness at the end is just lovely.

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

One bunch baby beets with greens
3 tbsp. butter, divided
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives (green Italian olives)
Feta cheese
Balsamic glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat three cups of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Add the polenta and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and polenta is tender. Stir in 2 tbsp. butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until butter is melted and polenta is creamy.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt one tbsp. of butter with the teaspoon of olive oil. Chop beets and their greens and add to the skillet. Sauté, stirring occasionally until beets are tender, about 5-7 minutes. If you like them a little softer, let them go a couple more minutes.

Start with a scoop of creamy polenta. Top with beets and greens, olives and a few crumbles of feta. Drizzle with balsamic and finish with a bit of sea salt if desired.

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Roasted Zucchini Boats on a Creamy Polenta Sea

Last week it was raining in Oregon.  I know, it’s a shocker.  This month I’m doing a 30-day walking challenge, which means instead of enjoying the gentle tapping of raindrops on my roof, I was out slogging away in it, getting drenched in the process.  It’s not all bad.  It smells good.  It’s not very cold.  Things could definitely be worse.  However, all that rain made me wish for a boat.  Since I had no boat, I decided to set sail on zucchini boats instead.

If you haven’t tried polenta, this is a simple but delicious recipe to get you started.  It might look basic, but it was the perfect rich, creamy counter balance for my crunchy, zesty zucchini boats.   If you have any left over, put it in a dish or pan in the fridge and it will set up solid.  Then slice and pan fry, grill or bake it for a crunchy little cake.  It’s like two foods in one!

I made this as a main dish, but if you want something a little heartier, it would be great with a side of chicken or fish or pork chop or…you get the idea.

Zucchini Boats on a sea of creamy polenta.  Mmmm.

Zucchini Boats on a sea of creamy polenta. Mmmm.

Roasted Zucchini Boats on a Creamy Polenta Sea

4 zucchini
1 cup chopped tomato
4 oz. goat cheese
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
3-4 green onions, sliced and divided
1 cup dry polenta
4 cups water or broth
4 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Slice each zucchini lengthwise. Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop the seeds out of your zucchini.

A little zucchini canoe.

A little zucchini canoe.

Fill your boats with tomatoes, cheese and half the green onions.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until zucchini is tender.

While the zucchini boats are cooking, bring 4 cups of water or broth to a boil.  Add one cup of polenta.  Cover and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When all the water is absorbed, remove from heat and stir in butter, cream cheese and the rest of the green onions.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Ladle some polenta onto a plate and top with zucchini boats.  Serves 4.

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Mini Polenta Pizzas

Polenta is one of those ingredients I forget about.  That is, until I have some and then I think, “oh yeah, I love this stuff!”.  There are two ways I really like it: one is cooked creamy, like rice or grits (although oddly, I don’t like grits), preferably loaded with some sort of creamy cheese.  The other way I love it is when it is set up solid, and then fried so it’s a little crispy on the outside.

To fry polenta, you can make it yourself and then cook it in a pan to set up solid, then cut it into pieces and pan-fry it.  Or, if you are rather lazy like me, you can buy it pre-made in a tube!  Now, usually food in a tube grosses me out, but this stuff is pretty good, without much in the way of added ingredients.  Simply remove it from the tube and slice it up into disks.  Fry or bake to your heart’s content or use it in whatever recipe strikes your fancy.

In this case, I was in the mood for pizza.  But I’m trying to eat more healthy, and also trying to cut down on gluten-heavy foods since they seem to love my hips (and why wouldn’t they?).  So the idea for using polenta disks instead of crust was born.  Since I had just broken in my new food processor by making the first batch of pesto out of my garden, I decided on pesto instead of red sauce and with a couple of fresh veggies and stretchy cheese…voila!  Pizza in a quickie, fairly healthy, bite-size form. Can I just say, I’m somewhat of a genius?

Mini Polenta Pizzas

Mini Polenta Pizzas

1 tube of pre-made polenta
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1/2 cup basil pesto (store bought or homemade)
Fresh garden or vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
Zucchini, sliced in disks or diced
Mozzarella cheese, shredded or thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Slice polenta into disks, about 1/2 inch thick.  Lay on a baking sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Take out of the oven and smear tops with pesto.

Mmmm….pesto!

Build your pizza with your favorite toppings.  We used fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced zucchini and mozzarella cheese.

Fresh and beautiful toppings

Pop back into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and starting to brown in spots.  Remove from oven and let it sit for just a few minutes.  If you eat them when they are really hot, you’ll need a fork.  If you wait a little bit you can pick them up.  Up to you!  One tube of polenta yields about 10 mini pizzas.

Right out of the oven. And those crunchy cheese bits on the pan all got eaten too!

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