Asparagus, blanched with a sprinkle of lemon zest and salt, on top of creamy vegan polenta cooked with delicately seasoned chickpeas.
I love this time of year, when I can go to the grocery store and buy as much asparagus as I want without taking out a second mortgage on my house. But the problem with asparagus, from a food blogger’s standpoint, is that it’s a vegetable that tastes best when prepared simply.
Asparagus’ delicate flavor needs no more adornment than, maybe, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt, and its texture is perfect with no more than the merest blush of heat. So once you know how to roast it, blanch it, grill it, or make it into pesto, there isn’t much left for me to tell you. You don’t need wild combinations of ingredients or fancy seasonings to enjoy asparagus, just your fork (or in my home, your fingers).
So here I present to you the most basic preparation of asparagus, blanched with a sprinkle of lemon zest and salt, on top of something that sounds fancy but is really homey and hearty: polenta (cornmeal mush or grits, as we call it here) and chickpeas.
A light hand with the lemon and freshly ground black pepper lets the fresh asparagus flavor shine through, and a sprinkle of pine nuts pulls the whole dish together. On second thought, maybe it is a little fancy after all!
Polenta with Lemony Asparagus and Chickpeas
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 2 cups vegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth
- 1 cup coarse polenta coarse grind, such as Bob's Red Mill, not instant polenta
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 medium onion chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or canned, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest peel, freshly grated
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- 12 ounces asparagus ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon lemon peel freshly grated
- lemon juice to taste
- coarse or flaky salt such as Maldon, to taste
- 4 teaspoons pine nuts lightly toasted
- Bring the 2 1/4 cups water and the 2 cups vegetable broth to a boil in a pressure cooker. Add the polenta while stirring. Stir in the garlic and basil, lock the lid in place, and bring to high pressure. Reduce heat but maintain high pressure for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let pressure come down naturally. Stir well, salt to taste, and keep warm until ready to serve. (No pressure cooker? See note below)
- While the polenta is cooking, sauté the onion in a medium-sized sauce pan until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and drained chickpeas and stir for another minute. Add the broth, basil, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the lemon peel and juice. Mix the arrowroot or cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and add it to the pan. Cook over medium low heat until slightly thickened. Keep warm.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch asparagus for 2 minutes. Drain well and toss with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, and coarse salt to taste. Divide the polenta among 4 plates, and top each with a quarter of the chickpeas and asparagus. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of toasted pine nuts over each serving.
Nutritional info is approximate.
chrissy1988March 10, 2010 at 11:55 pm
this sounds absolutely amazing. It looks pretty too! can't wait to try it!
PattyMarch 11, 2010 at 2:34 pm
I love any and all combinations of lemon and chicken, I can't wait to try this one out. Thanks!
MyAsiaMarch 11, 2010 at 10:19 pm
Asparagus lover here. On the lookout for more ways to enjoy it. Especially since my husband [who's not big on greens] actually likes asparagus. I think he would definitely enjoy this recipe. The lemon….lemon and lime bring out the *fresh* in dishes. Especially ones with a lot of raw ingredients. Mmmmm…..!!
Meg TMarch 12, 2010 at 1:24 pm
I love anything with asparagus in it, and that looks really yummy. I'll have to try that out.
whatiworeMarch 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm
I have never managed polenta… but this looks doable! I look forward to trying it 🙂
AggieMarch 13, 2010 at 10:36 am
This looks lovely…just lovely. I love everything about it!
Elena RegoMarch 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm
Hi! I saw this and was so enticed, I made my own version, inspired by you! (I can't help but improvise my way through recipes!) Anyway, I posted a picture and included a link here to you! Here is the post.
Thank you so much for this! I loved it!
AleciaBangBangMarch 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm
Yum, this looks good. You certainly know what to do with polenta–I'm still thinking about your Polenta Lasagna with Kale recipe and you posted that ages ago. Brava!
DanyellMarch 14, 2010 at 9:08 am
This looks delicious….we love asparagas in my Pensacola house!!!
DanyellMarch 14, 2010 at 9:08 am
This looks delicious….we love asparagas in my Pensacola house!!!
Carol EgbertMarch 15, 2010 at 3:44 am
I think lemon is my most favorite taste enhancer – better than salt.
I admire your food discipline.
Dr. Eric BergMarch 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm
Hi – Your recipes are fantastic. Can I have permission to post them on my new website (soon to be live), with full credit to you of course. http://22.214.171.124
SusanVMarch 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm
Dr. Berg, thank you for your interest. I prefer that you post only links to the recipes because reposting them hurts my site's search engine rankings.
Your site looks great! Good luck to you.
lovemyfamilyMarch 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm
for those of you that are rookie polenta makers, don't make the same mistake I did. Put a COVER on the pot on the stovetop. I didn't want to assume to do that cause the directions didn't say and you know what they say when you assume. After I finally put the cover on it and cooked for another 25 minutes we could eat; unfortunately our family wasn't a fan of this one, maybe try it again with brown rice instead of polenta.
MandeeMarch 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm
I made this for dinner and it was delicious! I used green beans in place of asparagus and love the lemony flavour with the chickpeas.
My only issue was the polenta. I followed the amounts for cooking it without a pressure cooker and found it was way too dry and there was definitely not enough liquid. I had to add another 2 cups.
KathyMarch 16, 2010 at 7:45 am
I made this for dinner last night and it was amazing! I cooked the polenta in the slow cooker, just like grits. My partner said it looked like food out of a fancy restaurant!
SaraMarch 16, 2010 at 8:48 am
I made this the other night and it was absolutely delicious. I cooked my polenta with soymilk for some extra creaminess. I will definitely make this again. Thanks for all the great recipes.
leptiricaMarch 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm
I made this last night and it was sooo good 😀 I didn't have a pressure cooker, so I made the polenta on the stove. I was confused, because my polenta became very thick in less than 10 minutes, while the instruction said it should take 25. I didn't complain! I never thought anyone could get me to eat polenta, but you did! Thank you so much for your website, I love it.
CrystalMarch 17, 2010 at 1:51 pm
Susan, this sounds like the perfect Spring dish. Asparagus season is such a joy and my husband and I try to eat as much as we can now so that when it's ridiculously expensive we don't feel so bad about not having it. I am going to give this recipe a try this week. Yum!
p.s. You may remember me…I used to have the Vivacious Vegan blog. I took a blogging break and am now back at it, although under a different address.
ElaineMay 7, 2010 at 8:13 pm
This looks delicious. I think I’ll try it this weekend.
Susan, I hope this is ok to say here….I was an avid read of the Vivacious Vegan blog, and missed it when it disappeared. I would love to read Crystal’s new blog. If it’s public, Crystal, can you please tell us where to find it? Thanks so much!!!
SusanVMay 8, 2010 at 7:53 am
I would love to have the blog address, too! Crystal, if you see this, please let us know where to find you.
Kati HyerMarch 17, 2010 at 5:37 pm
Thanks Susan! I didn't have any polenta around, but I've been going through this lentils and couscous faze, so I just switched them in instead. Thank you for something simple, balanced, and delicious. It hit the spot.
CassandraMarch 18, 2010 at 1:21 am
I made this tonight! Thanks for posting the recipe!
I don't own a pressure cooker so I used a pot to make the polenta. Took 7.5 minutes for it to become really thick. Is that normal?
I accidentally put too much lemon on the asparagus. Oops! I've never put lemon juice on vegetables before and wasn't sure how much to add. They were VERY lemony. My husband was impressed by the polenta as he had never had it before. Thanks for this recipe!
bobMarch 20, 2010 at 8:48 am
wow, look at that, I'm already drooling, great color, looks delicious
jess hoffmannMarch 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm
Made this on Sunday. DELICIOUS! I will definitely consider getting a pressure cooker before I try to make polenta again as it was a pain to do in a regular pot. Thanks Susan! I am a big fan!
LovliebutterflyMarch 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm
Yummy! Your polenta looks moist, I like this version, it looks very warm and hearty. Will try a moister polenta as yours next time.
BeswickMarch 21, 2010 at 9:07 pm
Found your blog yesterday. Made this dish for dinner tonight and it was AWESOME! It was sooo perfect for the first weekend of Spring. Even my husband who is apprehensive of anything "vegan" ate it happily and was stuffed. I'll be trying your Chili Mac later in the week!
ms.minMarch 23, 2010 at 10:07 pm
I made this tonight and it was really good. I loved it, but would substitute green beans or cruciferous veggies like broccoli or brussel sprouts as others have suggested, for the asparagus next time as I feel the lemon overpowered the asparagus (I even used the milder, Meyer lemons). The polenta was absolutely delicious (my polenta-hating kids gobbled it up…I think they liked that it wasn't fried), and the lemony chickpeas were to die for. I'd be interested in something with asparagus, polenta and some sort of creamy mushroom sauce, I think…I'd try any recipe of yours with those ingredients in a heartbeat! You are my favorite on-line recipe site. Keep 'em coming!
cindyMarch 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm
I'd have to replace the asparagus with broccoli. Otherwise, it sounds good.
LindsayMarch 27, 2010 at 4:31 pm
I just made this for dinner tonight and WOW it was good. The polenta was incredible, although it did thicken up much quicker than the recipe said. I can't wait to make this again!
AmieeMarch 27, 2010 at 7:00 pm
Mmmm. I'd love to sup broccoli for this in the later summer months… Yum!
My polenta became thick within like… five minutes, but I think it was because my pan was very wide maybe? It was also very very thick, like cut it with a knife style thick. 😛 But super super super tasty.
Susan VoisinMarch 5, 2018 at 10:21 am
There are so many varieties of polenta now that’s impossible to give a time that fits them all. I’m glad you liked it, though!
SusanVMarch 27, 2010 at 7:06 pm
Lindsay and Amiee–I'm glad you both liked it!
About the polenta, so much depends on the kind you are using. Some finely-ground types are almost instant while coarser kinds, like I was using, take longer. I realize now that I should have specified that my instructions were for the coarse-ground polenta from Bob's Red Mill. Everyone, watch (and stir) your polenta carefully and be ready to take it off of the heat once it is thick!
rmarkobMarch 28, 2010 at 1:47 pm
What kind of liquid do you saute the onions in?
SusanVMarch 28, 2010 at 2:14 pm
rmarkob, I don't use any liquid, just a non-stick skillet and almost constant stirring. But if you want, you can add a little water or veg broth if sticking is a problem. I find that cooking with liquid makes them taste "boiled" rather than browned.
RoRoMarch 29, 2010 at 7:19 pm
Thanks for this recipe! I just had it for dinner. I usually hate polenta, but it was great! My hubby liked it too…we have just recently decided to become vegan and are thrilled to have found this site!
MarindaMarch 31, 2010 at 10:48 am
I live in Germany and green asparagus is hard to find, but white asparagus is more than plentiful. Can I substitute on for the other? So many of your asparagus recipes sound amazing.
Lisa EireneApril 1, 2010 at 12:45 pm
This looks delicious! I'm going to try it this weekend. I love anything with asparagus in it. And by the way, thank you for posting the nutritional info. I'm a calorie counter and I hate when recipes don't have that info!
cysts acne treatmentApril 4, 2010 at 9:51 pm
ew! I love asparagus! I am on this!
chandaniApril 15, 2010 at 4:52 pm
Beautiful combination. Great ways to eat veggies.
Elizabeth E.April 17, 2010 at 8:11 am
I recently found your Web site and this is the first recipe I’ve tried. It was delicious. I’ve always loved polenta but never really knew how to fix it. Thank you for helping us make fabulous food.
KellieApril 17, 2010 at 10:06 am
Made this the other night and it was fantastic! It was also very easy to make. Didn’t care for the leftovers but fresh it was great.
LindsayHApril 24, 2010 at 7:11 pm
Is this recipe ok for Eat to Live? It’s not tagged as such but I don’t see any major problems. Is polenta a no no, too much of a simple carb?
I want to make this! If I start E2L soon, by the time I am done with the 6 weeks asparagus won’t be in season anymore.
SusanVApril 24, 2010 at 7:27 pm
Technically, polenta isn’t a whole grain, so some people might rule it out for Eat to Live. But Dr. Fuhrman allows limited amounts of things like whole wheat pita bread, and to my mind, polenta isn’t any worse than that. But since it’s so dense, I would probably limit myself to half a cup, rather than a whole, and only indulge in it every now and then.
Another idea: Skip the polenta and serve the asparagus and chickpeas over a whole grain. Lately I eat quinoa with everything! 🙂