My newlywed friends just returned from a year-long work transfer to Australia, and I wanted to welcome them home with style. I needed to find a vegetarian meal that was worthy of celebration, yet could be pulled off in the hour I gave myself to cook that night. I've been meaning to try this recipe from Suzanne Goin for a while, and this was the perfect occasion.
Mascarpone cheese is folded into warm polenta. Earthy mushrooms are seared with mild fresh pea shoots. Now comes a handful of gremolata, an Italian blend of minced lemon zest, parsley and garlic. Then we cap it off with some dabs of mascarpone that melt dreamily into the mushrooms.
The fresh and clean flavors of gremolata and greens perk up the earthy mushrooms and rich polenta and mascarpone. The dish is delicate, interesting and altogether gorgeous.
I didn't mean to write about it. But it was so visually arresting, I had to go back and make the whole thing again two days later, so I could give it the photo shoot that it rightfully deserves.
Mascarpone Polenta with Mushrooms, Greens and Gremolata
Yield: Serves 6-8
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 45 min Total Time: 1 hour
8 cups / 1.9 L water
1.5 cups / 340 g polenta
4 Tbs unsalted butter
White or freshly ground pepper
0.5 cup / 115 g flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs finely grated lemon zest
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1.5 lbs / 680 g mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster and stemmed shiitake, thickly sliced or quartered
4 cups / 1.4 Kg packed young greens, such as spinach, kale or pea shoots, coarsely chopped
3 Tbs plus 2 Tbs mascarpone cheese
In saucepan, heat water to boiling. Reduce heat and whisk in polenta slowly. Add 1 Tbs salt. Over medium-low heat, cook polenta for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When thick but still creamy, fold in 2 Tbs butter and 3 Tbs mascarpone. Season with a dash of white pepper and salt to taste. While you finish the dish, keep heat on very low and stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, mix together parsley, garlic and lemon zest for gremolata. Set aside.
Over medium-high heat 1 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs olive oil in your skillet. Add half your mushrooms and sear for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don't crowd the pan, and if you can, split out each batch of mushrooms into longer cooking (button, cremini, baby bella - meatier mushrooms) and shorter cooking (oyster, maitake, shiitake - delicate mushrooms), rather than all mixed together at once. Then add half your greens and cook til just tender, with a bit of bite, maybe 2 minutes depending on how hearty the greens are. Pea shoots will need 1-2 minutes, kale will need more like 3-4 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl, and repeat with the rest of your mushrooms and greens.
To serve, spread warm polenta over a large platter or wooden board (that's how it's traditionally served in Italy). Then layer on your mushroom and greens mixture. Dot with remaining mascarpone and then sprinkle on gremolata.