What is it about bowls-with-a-lot-of-stuff that are so appealing to us? O and me, specifically, I guess, but perhaps people in general, as well? There’s just something so hearty and comforting about a bowl layered with generous servings of vibrant, seasonal veggies and proteins that we can’t get over. Enter, the summer polenta bowl.
Pretty much, soft, creamy polenta topped with anything is delicious, and in my previous life, I used to serve a fancy three-day braised meat (in an entire bottle of wine! I mean, c’mon now) over this polenta and totally adored it. These days, we do a lot less meat and a lot more veggies, but this recipe surprised us.
We expected, you know, soft polenta and earthy mushrooms, summery zucchini, herbaceous chimichurri, quick marinated tomatoes, a rich poached egg. But all together it becomes errrmagahhh summer bliss. Maybe it’s the chimichurri that ties is all together; maybe it’s the poached egg? Maybe it’s the sheer freshness of it all. Who knows! I’m not asking questions. My mouth’s way too full for any of that nonsense.
What I especially love about this summer polenta bowl is that it works beautifully with pretty much any vegetables you have on hand. Okra? Check. Carrots? Do it. Kale? OK, go for it. It’s a great way to use up your farmer’s market spoils before they, uh, spoil? And of course, it’s super healthy, packed full of veggies, and can totally be made vegan (just leave out that poached egg and the optional grated cheese!).
Oh, and you know how polenta is supposed to be risotto-like with the constant stirring and full hour spent bent over the saucepan, making sure everything turns out *just right*? Ha! This polenta takes about 18 minutes, requires only a bit of whisking, and can be made with regular, ol’ cornmeal. This dish comes together in about 30 minutes – pretty awesome, right?
The recipe is less of a recipe and more of simple guidelines, aside from the actual polenta recipe, that is. Get creative with what sounds good to you and what you’ve got on hand! Let me know what killer creations you come up with.
Summer Polenta Bowl (Vegan Option)
- Soft , quick polenta:
- 1 cup unsweetened and unflavored almond milk
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 cup polenta (or cornmeal - that's what I typically use)
- about 1/3 cup freshly grated cheese (like Monterey, mozzarella, etc.), optional
- about 4 ounces mushrooms , sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil
- 2-3 zucchini/summer squash , sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil
- 2 ripe tomatoes , diced
- 2 eggs , poached (see note for my personal poaching process)
- about 1 tablespoon wine vinegar for poaching the eggs (like rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar - don't use apple cider vinegar or white vinegar)
- 3/4 cup of oil (either great olive oil or use vegetable oil - you don't want the strong taste of a mediocre olive oil here)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup of lemon juice
- 1/2 cup cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon of dry oregano
- 1 tablespoon of red crushed pepper
- Salt to taste (a lot - I usually use about 1 tablespoon [from the original recipe from Texas de Brazil])
- Make chimichurri: process all ingredients in a blender until chopped and blended (but not TOO smooth; you want some discernible herb flecks here but no pieces of raw garlic).
- Spoon 2 tablespoons chimichurri over the diced tomatoes, toss, and set aside.
- Make the polenta: bring water, milk, and salt to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to low; simmer until smooth and thick, stirring almost constantly, about 18 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sauté your vegetables and poach your eggs. When your polenta is done, stir in the optional grated cheese and divide evenly between two large individual bowls. Layer sautéed vegetables and marinated tomatoes on top then top with a poached egg per bowl and a spoon of chimichurri. Serve with additional chimichurri.
How to poach an egg: fill a nonstick medium saucepan with about 2″ water. pour in about 1-2 tablespoons wine vinegar or other flavored vinegar (you can use white vinegar, but use something else if you have it) to the water to acidulate the water and help the egg whites coagulate. place over high heat. Crack your eggs into small bowls. When the water is just about to boil, and you see little bubble streams coming from the bottom, turn heat to low. don’t allow to boil–if it begins to, pour in just a bit of extra room temperature water, or uh, wait.
Gently lower a bowl with a cracked egg to the water and gently slip the egg into the water. Using a spoon, gently push the egg white strands closer to the whole of the egg, helping it stay together. Set a time for 3 minutes. when the egg is formed and sticking together, you can lower in another egg and repeat that process. Set another timer for 3 minutes, or generally guess how long it took you to add that second egg and get it sticking to itself. Poach only about 2-3 at a time–too crowded and you’ll have morphed siamese twin eggs, which is not what we’re going for (this time). Very, very gently try and push the eggs around just a bit, so they don’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
After the 3 minutes is up, remove the first egg with a slotted spoon and very gently slide your beautifully poached egg onto a plate (you can line with paper towels to absorb extra water but it will be much harder to slide the egg off the plate this way). After 3 minutes (or about as long as it took you between setting the first timer and getting the second egg in and sticking to itself) for the second egg, remove it the same way. Do the same for the third egg, then repeat the process from placing the pot over high heat. You can recycle the water or start again, if you like, depending on how many rogue egg white strands you have.