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.
LindsayHApril 25, 2010 at 2:35 am
I think I might be bad and do it with polenta. I want an excuse to use the new pressure cooker that I got for Christmas, which, I am embarrassed to admit, I have yet to try out.
Anyhow, when making my E2L menu, I think I may have to do a modified version. Which is fine with me.
DeeApril 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm
I am someone who is compassionate about the treatment of animals and also a very proud vegetarian. Even though this is alot to ask but maybe somewhere on your site, or even if just you alone could you support me in my goal to becoming a member on glee. By doing this, I can become someone who is not only living my dream,and my goals.. but can be an influencial person of the vegetarian community.
Pleaseeee help to get me on the cast of glee by giving me some gold stars and spread the word
and scroll down
im trying to get as much support as possible!
Thank you so much, I adore your recipies! yum
moonwatcherMay 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm
I knew I was going to make this when I first read the post. But I had to think about how to do it so it would be good for a few times, since I am cooking for one. I decided easily to just steam some of the asparagus, so each night it would be fresh. I worried that the polenta would get too hard or gummy on reheating. But I had a pleasant surprise. It was all delicious the first time, even though I had forgotten an onion and used a combination of green onion, chives (coming up in garden) and onion flakes. I put the rest of the lemony chickpeas and polenta side by side in a baking dish. Next time I heated them up in the oven. Oh my goodness, did that bring the lemony zing of the chickpeas out! And the polenta kept a very nice consistency and sort of got “steamed” by the flavors in the sauced chickpeas. So it ended up being one of those things that is somehow even better as leftovers, even though it was great when I first made it! The last time I finished it up, I didn’t have any more asparagus (I am an asparagus glutton when it is around, I admit it), I topped some lightly steamed greens (dandelion and spinach and mustard combo–from early garden volunteers) and that was scrumptious, too. I now have some asparagus from the farmer’s market grown locally, so I am about to make it again–this time with the required onion–and I am looking forward to the leftovers, again, too!!
AmyMay 26, 2010 at 3:01 pm
We made this last night with friends and it was terrific! We grilled the asparagus. Hooray for seasonal recipes!
MersJune 14, 2010 at 9:03 am
This was fabulous! I made it last night for my hubby and I. Some friends dropped by and loved it too.
PupaJuly 10, 2010 at 6:55 am
I’ve just made this. Delicious!!! thanks for a great recipe.
KellieFebruary 21, 2011 at 11:12 am
This recipe is fantastic. I wasn’t sure about polenta and chickpeas together but the “sauce” that the chickpeas are cooked with really elevates them. I never thought about cooking with lemon juice before but between this recipe and the Lemony Quinoa recipe we are now officially fans of lemon juice in recipes.
Dawn (Vegan Fazool)March 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm
I just made this and am eating it right now, it is amazing. Beautiful, easy lemon sauce over the chickpeas, contrasts so nicely with the flavorful polenta. Susan, this one is genius (no surprise). I do an easy stove top polenta for anyone interested. Only takes 10 minutes of cooking! Bring 6 cups water (or broth/water combo) to a boil, then add 2 tsp salt (if not using broth). Add 1 1/4 cups cornmeal in a slow stream, whisking as you go. Let simmer about 10 minutes, whisking about every minute or two. You don’t have to whisk it constantly, but don’t forget about it, either. Put your add-ins at the end (corn, herbs, garlic, whatever). I used the Bob’s Red Mill as well. Thanks again! Dawn
Dawn (Vegan Fazool)March 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm
I linked to this recipe in my blog post about the upcoming Meatout:
Hope that is OK, if not please let me know.
Thanks for a great fast-fancy meal! Love your recipes as always.
AwayNGoneMarch 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm
Instead of serving this over polenta I served it over a mix of mashed sweet potato and celery root. I also used oregano rather than basil and a vegan “beef” broth and I have to say this was hands down one of my favorite meals EVER. Even my son who hates chickpeas loved this.
CorinneNovember 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm
Yummo! Love the look of this, and will definitely put it on my list of things to make when the weather turns a bit warmer! I’ve never cooked with polenta before, but am keen to learn. Thanks Susan!
JolaNovember 28, 2012 at 5:31 am
Already done and eaten! It’s so delicious!!! Thank you for this website, I find it plenty of fantastic recipes!
As I live in Italy, I decided to prepare this plate because this is period of polenta eating! 🙂
StacyMarch 3, 2014 at 7:10 pm
I made this tonight and it is simply DELICIOUS!!!! Thanks!
SujataMarch 16, 2014 at 7:23 pm
This was a big win with my family. My husband and sons added some grated Parmesan too.
Thanks for sharing.
TallyMarch 21, 2016 at 6:25 am
This is making my mouth water just looking at it!
izabelaMarch 5, 2018 at 1:44 pm
what do you use to sauté the onion?
Susan VoisinMarch 5, 2018 at 2:23 pm
I use a non-stick saucepan and just stir it a lot. I personally don’t add any liquid, but some people like to use a splash of water or vegetable broth.
melissaMarch 16, 2018 at 6:42 am
Love this dish, I’ve made it a couple of times. This time I added some Gardein chickn strips on top to stretch the portions. Next time I’m thinking of trying tarragon in place of basil. Dried basil make me sad.
ChristineMarch 23, 2019 at 1:43 pm
Been meaning to make this forever and finally did! I added some mushrooms to saute after browning the onion but before adding the chickpeas and it was extra tasty. I’m usually not very good at recipes with multiple moving parts but this was manageable, and worth it.
LentaApril 18, 2019 at 9:46 pm
This recipe is delicious. I found it while looking for Instant Pot recipes, but I ended up using the stovetop for everything. The lemony chickpea with arrowroot portion was especially good. I made it as directed tonight, but I think I will try it with vegetables other than asparagus sometime when asparagus is not in season. Broccoli or mushrooms, as someone else suggested, would be good add-ins. Thank you for this recipe.
RUTHMay 17, 2019 at 11:45 am
I made this last night and fed it to my non-vegan parents. It was a big hit!! The only change I will make next time is to use 1.5-2x the asparagus. I think that broccoli would work great with this, too, when asparagus season is over. Actually, any vegetable that you think would be good with lemon. Ordinarily I am not a fan of chickpeas, but I enjoyed this. I used Bob’s Red Mill polenta and it only takes 5 minutes to cook. The whole meal came together in less than 20 minutes. THAT is a huge win for me!!