The weather has warmed a bit and snow seems less likely every day. I’ve always loved Michigan’s four seasons, but feel I have a greater appreciation for them now that I try to cook seasonally. In addition to the increase in sunshine, spring brings asparagus and spring onions. I love when new produce hits the scene. Our farmer’s market doesn’t open until next month, but our Whole Foods and some other markets showcase their seasonal produce and usually have a great price to match.
I spotted this recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP newsletter and it was created by her buddy, Mario Batali. I wish Mario was my buddy. Does it count that I stood in the same grocery store he likes to visit in Traverse City? No, I suppose not.
The recipe calls for 12 spring onions and I’m guessing he used general purpose green onions or scallions in his recipe, but Whole Foods had the most beautiful spring onions with bulbs larger than your typical scallions. I snatched them up with a happy heart and gathered the rest of my ingredients. I made this on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and it really hit the spot. The sweet onions are made sweeter with a short sauté and the proscuitto adds a kick of salt and smokiness. I love crispy proscuitto and next time might try crisping it and setting it aside before proceeding with the rest of the vegetables. Either way, it is a wonderful way to welcome spring.
Recipe: Soft Polenta with Asparagus, Proscuitto and Spring Onions
Recipe adapted from Mario Batali via GOOP
5 C. water
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
1 C. polenta (I used medium ground)
1 C. masccarpone cheese (about 8 oz.)
3 T. unsalted butter plus 2 T.
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
5 slices proscuitto, cut into thin strips
3 large spring onions, white part chopped into 1/2″ pieces (or 1 bunch of scallions)
zest and juice of one lemon
1. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add ice to set up an ice bath. Make sure all of the ingredients are ready to use before starting because things come together quickly.
2. Place 5 C. water in a large saucepan or pot (enough to fit asparagus) and bring to a boil. Drop trimmed asparagus into the water and cook until tender, about one and a half minutes. Remove with tongs and transfer to ice bath. Return the same water to a boil and whisking constantly, pour polenta in a thin stream until all is incorporated. Check often and whisk frequently for about 15 minutes.
3. In a 12 to 14 inch sauté pan, heat 3 T. butter until foaming over medium heat. Continue to watch and whisk polenta. Add garlic, proscuitto and spring onions and sauté until onions are wilted. Add asparagus (removed from ice bath), lemon juice and zest, stir. Add remaining 2 T. butter, stir and season with salt.
4. When polenta is cooked, add the mascarpone cheese and season to taste with salt. Divide polenta among 4 bowls and top with the vegetable mixture and serve immediately.