Monday, April 26, 2010

Asparagus Season

Unless you haven't been to the grocery store in the past few weeks or you live under a rock, you must have noticed the abundance of fresh and inexpensive asparagus available lately. It's just in season now, being an early spring crop. I used to really hate asparagus. Maybe I didn't like the distinctive flavor, maybe I was weirded out by the way it made my pee smell. I don't know. But I am happy to report in the past few years I have come around to asparagus, weird pee smell and all. It's worth it when you get a bunch of really tender shoots and cook them simply. This dish served as a vehicle for basic roasted asparagus. The vehicle itself, polenta and mushrooms, wasn't too shabby either. This is a fast and easy meal if you use quick cooking polenta. It will work fine with regular, though, it will just take a little longer.

Soft Polenta with Mushroom Sauce and Roasted Asparagus
-1 1/3 cups quick cooking polenta
-olive oil
-1 small onion, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-10 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
-1 heaping tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
-1/2 cup white wine
-1/2 cup vegetable stock
-1 tbsp Earth Balance
-1 tsp cornstarch
-1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
-salt and pepper
-3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
-In a large pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 4-5 minutes until softened.
-Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes.
-Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring often, for 7-8 minutes until the mushrooms are softened.
-Add the wine and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquid reduces a bit.
-Meanwhile, arrange the asparagus on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until fork tender.
-Once the asparagus goes in, prepare the quick cooking polenta according to package directions. It should only take 5-10 minutes. Keep warm until you're ready to eat.
-Add the Earth Balance and cornstarch to the mushroom sauce and stir to thicken. Test the seasoning and adjust as needed.
-On your plate, scoop a serving of polenta. Top with the mushroom sauce, and arrange the roasted asparagus on top. Top with fresh parsley and serve.

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