1cupcoarse polentacoarse grind, such as Bob's Red Mill, not instant polenta
1/2medium onionchopped fine
1 1/2cupscooked chickpeasor canned, drained and rinsed
1/2cupvegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth
1/4teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
1teaspoonlemon zestpeel, freshly grated
1teaspoonarrowroot or cornstarch
12ouncesasparagusends trimmed and stalks cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1teaspoonlemon peelfreshly grated
lemon juiceto taste
coarse or flaky saltsuch as Maldon, to taste
4teaspoonspine nutslightly 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.
To make polenta without a pressure cooker, use 2 cups broth and 1 cup water. Bring liquids to a boil in a heavy, deep saucepan, and slowly stir in polenta, garlic, and basil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until very thick (about 30 minutes). (Be careful and use a long-handled spoon because mixture can bubble and spit hot corn meal on your hand.) Add salt to taste and keep warm until ready to serve.Also note: These polenta instructions are for cooking coarse polenta, not instant or quick-cooking grits. If you are using one of those products, follow the liquid/polenta ratio and times on the package.