It's almost summer now, in fact I hear that the strawberries are out, and I can't believe I am still sitting on this blog post. I don't know what it is that I am waiting for. Something brilliant to write about? Maybe. Sometimes I just procrastinate a little too much. It better not be summer already, or this post looses it's relevancy.
Back to the relevant.
This Roasted Asparagus with Oven Baked Polenta and Sauteed Shiitake Mushroom dish is one of those dishes that is so easy to prepare, and is so easily modifiable too. I like to call it a "catch up dish". When time is like a big whoosh, careening your day and finally you find yourself at the end of your busyness. When you don't have the time or want to fuss in the kitchen, but desire a nourishing and satisfying dish, I recommend a simple take on a classic. Why not roast some asparagus, bake some polenta and saute some mushrooms. If rushing off to the market is not your thing, why not hobble some other ingredients together for a modification on this easy recipe. Don't have shiitake mushrooms? Try some tomatoes or better yet, red peppers...Don't have polenta? Why not try a whole grain rice, or couscous.
Anyway, you get the picture.
Just be willing to be inventive. This summer I am looking for simple and quick dishes to satisfy my taste buds and keep me out of the kitchen during the twilight hours. Simple Summer is the name of the game for me.
Asparagus is one of those gloriously wonderful vegetables. I love the flavor and for some reason, maybe because i grew up in Texas where asparagus was rarely eaten, it seems a bit exotic for me. Not to the true Michigander, I'm sure. But for me, asparagus has that alluring appeal. I know I'm not the only one though. Have you ever been to the Empire Asparagus Festival? I'll share some of my pictures from that quirky festival at the end of this blog post.
I love mushrooms. I found these beautiful and fresh shiitakes at the local farmers market. I couldn't have been happier. Sauteed with a little butter, sage and a few other magical ingredients, which I will share with you, the mushrooms turn into a harmonious blend of savory flavor.
If you ever see pea shoots at the farmer's market, pick them up. They are delicious and they taste like peas!!
It's so easy to roast asparagus. 425 degrees, a little olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt for 10 minutes will leave the asparagus roasted yet still crunchy. That's how I like my asparagus.
Roasted Asparagus with Oven Baked Polenta and Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms
- 1 bunch asparaguswashed with the ends cut off (about one pound)
- shiitake mushroomswashed with the stems discarded ( 8-12 ounces)
- two sprigs of fresh sage
- 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce
- 2 Tablespoons of Madiera wine for cooking ( can use any dry white wine)
- 12 ounces polenta meal
- 2 quarts stock ( any kind, but i prefer chicken)
- olive oil for drizzling on the asparagus
- 2 Tablespoons butter divided for mushroom saute and for greasing the polenta dish and the foil
- salt to taste
Make the polenta first. Heat oven to 350degrees. Butter a shallow 2.5-3 quart baking dish with 1 Tablespoon butter, and set aside. Place stock (minus 1/4 cup) in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Slowly pour the polenta into the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Boil for two minutes, while stirring. Pour polenta into the generously buttered dish, cover with buttered foil and bake for one hour.
While the polenta is baking, prepare the asparagus for roasting. Wash and dry the asparagus. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and salt to taste. Set aside and wait for the polenta to finish baking.
Prepare your mushrooms. Wash the mushrooms and discard the stems. Chop the sage into small pieces. Bring a medium saute pan with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter to medium high heat, melting the butter. Add the mushrooms and the sage and let the mushrooms sit in the pan for about 2 minutes barely moving them. ( This allows a light brown crust to form on the mushrooms.) After 2 minutes, begin to saute the mushrooms. When the moisture has evaporated, add the wine and fish sauce and saute briskly allowing some of the liquid to remain with the mushrooms. If desired, add the remaining 1/4 cup of stock to the ban to make a light juicy gravy for the mushrooms.
After one hour pull the polenta from the oven and allow it to sit under the foil while the aspargus roasts. Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Put the asparagus into the oven and roast for 10-13 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus.
Plate up your dishes. Polenta first, then the mushrooms on top of the polenta and the asparagus on top of that. Enjoy!!
Quirky is the attitude at the Empire Aspargus Festival. The festival rings in the spring and makes celebrating a simple food, all things Northern Michigan. The aspargus cook off is one of the activities at the festival. Of course, eating aspargus is definately the whole point of the Empire Aspargus Festival.