Made | Polenta with balsamic mushrooms and roasted asparagus

Have you heard of the blog Orangette? Molly Wizenberg is one of those writers who seems to have missed the memo about how the blogosphere is changing or selling out; in fact, she probably doesn't even know the word "blogosphere." (That's a compliment.) I love when she pops up on my blog reader because not only will there be something food-related, there will be a thoughtful story to read as well. It's one of those blogs that I open and save for some downtime with a coffee in my hand. It feels like I'm chatting with an old friend with nowhere else to be.

Because of that, and also because she and her husband own a successful restaurant in Seattle, I tend to trust her recipes a little more than the average food blog. So when I followed a link to an old post on polenta, I knew that was the recipe to use for my first delve into polenta.

I saved this recipe for a day when I'd be working from home, so I could start it a couple hours before we'd want to eat dinner. There's a lot of supervision needed for the non-quick cooking kind of polenta, but it wasn't more than I could do while working in the other room or readying the rest of dinner.

I'm originally from Georgia, so I've had my fair share of grits, and polenta is just a creamier version of that. For me, it's the ultimate comfort food—familiar and novel at the same time, down-home flavors found on upscale menus. I knew I wanted caramelized onions and mushrooms to go on top, and I used this Love and Lemons recipe as a jumping off point.

Molly does a great job of explaining how to cook the polenta, so I won't go into the details of that here. I had no problems even though it was my first time cooking the stuff, but I did take some pictures of the steps and included them. I will say that I just bought #120 yellow cornmeal at the grocery store from the grains aisle (rice, beans, bulgur, etc.). Whole Foods has Italian polenta in its bulk section that looks exactly the same as what I bought.

For the mushroom topping

1 medium yellow/red onion, sliced (I used half a leftover yellow onion and half a leftover red onion)
3 medium portabello mushroom caps, halved and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1.5–2 cups fresh spinach
splash of red wine (I used Trader Joe's shiraz)
couple splashes of balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts (optional)

Start by coating the bottom of a large pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. Sauté the onions until they start to brown and caramelize, then add the garlic. After a minute or so, add the mushrooms and lower the heat. Cook these together until the mushrooms have released all of their juices and cooked down (about 15–20 minutes). If it seems like they're burning, reduce the heat even more. You want this to cook slowly. When the mushrooms are cooked down, add a splash or two of red wine and let reduce. Add a couple handfuls of spinach and stir until wilted. Add the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan right before you're ready to serve, stir and remove from heat. Serve over polenta and top with toasted pine nuts.

I also served ours with roasted asparagus, (really simple) recipe found here.

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