Polenta with Leeks, Peppers, and Asparagus

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I am Italian, but I never really grew up eating polenta. Pasta was a staple on my kitchen table and to this day, I have to resist my natural craving for wheat products. This addiction largely is a result from my mother’s daily macaroni pushing tendencies for the first 18 years of my life; I can hear her now saying “everyone always blames the mother.” It’s not your fault entirely, Ma. You prepared the best meals of all time… it’s just that now I am spending the rest of my life denying myself what I truly want on a daily basis – pasta.

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When I decided that I needed to cut back my gluten intake quite a bit, I realized that I should have an Italian middle ground dish to wean me off of my addiction. Enter polenta. Cornmeal is way sexier than it sounds. When you buy a tube of polenta, you can make dinner in a snap and load on all of the fresh, delicious vegetables that your heart desires. Polenta contains vitamin A and C and since polenta is gluten-free, it can pretty easily replace wheat-based meals. I am not making wheat out to be the enemy, but I do think that it’s important to have a lot of healthy variety in a diet.

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This dish is incredibly easy to make and even though the vegetables require a few steps, you are getting so many different nutrients in one dish that tastes great for days. Yum! Easy, AND healthy! Sign us up, right??

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This recipe has a casserole feel and it is perfect to bring to dinner parties, serve for a girl’s-night-in, or to feed to your brother who is in denial about his serious allergies to gluten (he is the site’s editor-in-chief, so if this sentence does not get deleted, it will be a miracle). Serve this with a simple leafy green salad and sliced avocado… that’s what I do and we are always satisfied while also feeling very healthy.

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Polenta with Leeks, Peppers, and Asparagus
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, trimmed, halved, and chopped
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped and separate tips from the stem. Discard woody stem bottoms
  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh thyme, divided
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 16-oz. tube prepared polenta, cut into 12 slices
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese (½ cup)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat oil in a dutch oven or ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks and mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Next, add bell pepper, chopped asparagus stems, 1 Tbs. thyme, and red pepper flakes; sauté 10 minutes. Stir in broth and garlic.
  3. Arrange polenta slices over leek mixture in dutch oven; top with crumbled goat cheese, remaining 1 Tbs. thyme, asparagus tips, and a touch more of crushed red pepper if  you wish. 
Bake 20 minutes, or until goat cheese softens.

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