Polenta Gnocchi with Herbed Peas

I have so many things I want to share with you today! The one thing they have in common is that they are all green - the color, not necessarily the eco-friendly movement. 

First - our CSA box this week was brimming with green vegetables!

Starting at the upper left hand corner in the purple bag is saute mix, asparagus, salad mix, the three cheeses (a spring cheddar, a tomato basil cheddar, and a feta - which you can't see), green garlic, potato onions, white turnips, mini romaine lettuce, bok choy, rhubarb, and pea vines.

I'm not a fan of turnips. I'm hoping that this year I can discover one recipe that uses turnips that makes me like them. So, this next week, I'll be looking for recipes to try with these turnips and we'll see how it goes. More than likely, however, as the season progresses I will have too many turnips in my refrigerator. If you like turnips, let me know and you may get some sent your way!

I was excited about the pea vines! They smell just like fresh from the garden peas - one of the best smells ever! You can eat them raw, but I prefer to use them similar to how I use cooked spinach. Because these don't keep for very long, I knew I had to use these up first. So, I sautéed up some and topped a version of eggs benedict. Instead of ham, I used Morningstar Farms bacon. I even made hollandaise sauce for the first time. I was totally intimidated by it but it actually was pretty easy and quick to make! 

I used the rest of the pea vines in a creamy pea vine sauce that I used to top some homemade fettucini!

This was a HUGE success! I was practically skipping around the kitchen because of this recipe. And, not because of the pea vine sauce, but because of the homemade fettucini. I wanted my homemade pasta recipe to use flours that had a few more nutrients in them than semolina flour does and I wanted to avoid using eggs (mainly because making pasta with eggs is a hassle). 

At first I tried mixing semolina with teff flour 1-1. This was not a good idea since teff flour doesn't contain gluten... What resulted was delicious pasta bits! eek!

So, this time I used:

Success! The texture was perfect and it was easy to get the right amount of moisture in the dough - which is crucial for rolling and cutting the pasta. 

My favorite recipe this week was Polenta Gnocchi with Herbed Peas. Polenta is a great comfort food that is economical and extremely versatile. All you need to make polenta is coarse cornmeal, water, and salt. 

When I first learned how to make polenta, I would stand at the stove for 20 minutes and stir the mixture constantly. Most boring 20 minutes of my life! I rarely made it. Now, I follow Lynne Rossetto Kasper's recipe from The Splendid Table. The difference is amazing.

Using Lynne's double boiler method takes longer (about 90 minutes) but I'm only stirring every few minutes instead of constantly, so I can make the rest of the meal while this is cooking. Plus, achieving the right texture with polenta is easy... achieving the right flavor takes time. Polenta really does need to cook for about 90 minutes to remove any bitterness. 

Polenta, once it is cooked, can be formed into whatever shape you want. Typically, it is spread flat and cut into squares or triangles and fried. Here it is scooped into gnocchi-style mounds. 

The herbed peas give the polenta an amazing flavor. If you don't want to use peas, asparagus or even edamame would be good. 

I originally got this recipe from a long lost recipe book of mine called Easy Vegetarian by Cornelia Schinharl. I modified the method slightly to make it simpler to put together at the end.

Polenta Gnocchi with Herbed Peas
4 servings, 90 minutes

3 cups water
1 cup coarse cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch green onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch mixed fresh herbs, minced (I used thyme, parsley, and cilantro - about 1 cup minced)
1 lemon - zested
1 tablespoon butter
10 ounces frozen peas (or fresh if you have them!)
1/2 cup vegetable stock (I was lazy and just used water - which turned out fine)
2/3 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream or plain cream)
Parmesan cheese
  1. Using a double boiler (or a sauce pan with a metal bowl hovering over the water), bring some water to boil. Heat the 3 cups water. Add the cornmeal to the top of the double boiler (or the bowl) and stir in the heated water. Stir well to eliminate lumps. Cover and turn heat to low (water in the bottom of the boiler should be simmering). Stir occasionally (more often at first, less often toward the end of cooking) until the polenta is thick, creamy, and has no trace of bitterness - about 75-90 minutes. Add salt to taste toward the end of cooking.
  2. When polenta is done cooking, use two tablespoons to scoop it out in small chunks into a serving dish (I used a 8x8 baking pan). Layer the scoops as needed. This is similar to scooping cookie dough onto a cookie sheet; however instead of leaving space between the scoops, you are placing the scoops side-by-side and sometimes on top of each other. Set aside until sauce is ready.
  3. While the polenta is cooking, make the sauce: heat the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add green onions and garlic; saute for about 2 minutes. Add the peas, lemon zest, and about half the herbs. Saute for another 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock (or water), cover, and let cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the creme fraiche and remaining herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  4. Pour the sauce over the polenta scoops. Dust entire dish with parmesan cheese and serve warm.

Print this recipe. Adapted from Easy Vegetarian by Cornelia Schinharl