Hey remember when we only had three more days of meatless January left???
I sure do. I mean it’s not like I’m dying for a cheeseburger or anything – but I AM DYING FOR A G-D CHEESEBURGER! All joking aside though, this month has been easier than I thought it would be. I’ve had a lot of fun creating recipes that feel wholesome and satisfying without the aid of meat, and that have allowed me to just get out of my normal comfort zone (hello chicken thighs – I’m looking at you).
Some highlights of the month for me included this surprisingly addictive tofu chorizo, a lot of breakfast for dinner dutch babies, and all of the quick, veggie-packed soups. But the biggest takeaway I had was that vegetarian food can be soooooo comforting. Now before you roll your eyes at me, listen. We only had pasta ONCE all month long. So for me to equate vegetarian food with comfort and not mean that I just mainlined mac and cheese for 30 days straight is saying something in my book.
Now no pasta doesn’t mean no carbs. We had our fair share of bread, rice, and potatoes. But when push came to shove, we actually ate more veggies and plant based protein than anything else. Also we had frozen pizza at least twice because sometimes you just gotta.
Brown butter spiced chickpeas with kale and creamy polenta (or what I learned on my meatless vacation)
If meatless January were being graded this would be my final exam. It brings together all of the things I’ve learned into one, cohesive and tasty dish. It’s comforting, healthy, interesting, packed with flavor, and easy to make on a busy weeknight. Also it involves brown butter – which is the food equivalent of magic fairy dust which makes everything it touches turn to delicious.
So if you have taken away nothing from the previous 358 words, please pay close attention to this next sentence. This brown butter spiced chickpea and polenta situation is comfort food GOALS and every day you go without eating it will be another day you’ve missed out on one of the most delicious bites of food I’ve ever made in my own kitchen. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, then I don’t know what is. Also why do we call it a ringing endorsement? Did they use to announce endorsements with bells?
And while we’re ringing all those endorsement bells – did I mention this is the easiest polenta EVER?
I think people can be intimidated by polenta. I know I was for a long time. It’s a dish that Italian grandmothers make and I ain’t no Italian grandma, so how would I ever hope to make food like one? But after some time, a lot of research, and a few missteps, I can say that the intimidation game is WEAK. Don’t let it freak you out. Here are my tips for super easy, mostly hands off, get over all the anxiety, creamy polenta.
5 tips for the easiest polenta
- Buy good polenta – not the ‘quick cook’ variety. I swear by Bob’s Red Mill, but any coarse ground yellow or white corn grit is fine.
- Know your ratios – for spoonable, spreadable polenta you’ll want a ratio of 1 part polenta to 4 parts liquid.
- Keep it simple – this is both for your sake and the polenta’s. Fewer ingredients will let the natural corn flavor come through, and be less for you to chop, prep, and have ready.
- Whisk it three times – once when you add the polenta to the boiling water, again after the ten minute mark to break up any lumps, and a third time at the very end to incorporate your final ingredients. None of this standing over the pot and stirring until your arm falls off nonsense.
- Keep your heat low – like the lowest it can possibly go.
And that’s it. At the end you can whisk in your additions of choice – in my case some cream cheese and a little more salt. Then just serve it up with your spiced chickpeas and kale and enjoy a warm, comforting, meatless meal that you’ll want to make again, immediately.
So as we get ready to greet what looks like a very chilly February, I’m glad to have this in my (now much more robust) arsenal of comfy, cozy, hearty, meat-free recipes to whip up whenever the mood strikes. And something tells me it will strike often.Print
Brown Butter Spiced Chickpeas with Kale and Creamy Polenta
Chickpeas and kale become unctuous comfort food when you crisp everything up in brown butter and serve it on top of creamy polenta. This is vegetarian comfort food at its finest.
- Prep Time: 5 Minutes
- Cook Time: 30 Minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 3 generous servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: Vegetarian
For the polenta:
2 C water
1/2 C coarse ground polenta (not quick cook)
1/2 tsp salt
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
For the chickpeas and kale:
1 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
5 T unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
6 C chopped kale
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Bring the water to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and salt. Cover and turn heat as low as it will go.
Let cook, undisturbed for ten minutes. Then whisk thoroughly for 30 seconds (breaking up any lumps). Cover again and cook for another 20 minutes.
Uncover and whisk in the cream cheese until completely melted. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
While the polenta cooks. drain your chickpeas on a few layers of paper towel and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Once it begins to bubble up furiously, swirl the pan frequently to keep it moving. Keep an eye on it until you notice the butter solids drop to the bottom of the pan and begin to take on a nutty, brown color. Once this happens move pan off of the heat. Take out 2 tablespoons of the brown butter and set aside in a small bowl.
In the remaining brown butter, add chickpeas and kosher salt. Cook chickpeas for ten minutes over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally, until they turn golden brown and start to crisp up.
Add the paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne. Toss to combine and cook for one minute. Transfer chickpeas to a plate and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of reserved brown butter to the skillet and saute kale until wilted – about 5 minutes. Drizzle in red wine vinegar and cook for one more minute.
Serve chickpeas and kale over a bed of polenta and drizzle each serving with some of your remaining brown butter.
Polenta is really more about ratios than measurements. If you want to make more or less polenta just remember that you’ll need 4 parts liquid to every 1 part polenta.
The polenta will continue to thicken as it sits. If you need to loosen it up just add a couple tablespoons of water and whisk over low heat until smooth.
Feel free to substitute spinach, chard or any other dark, leafy green for kale here.
Keywords: vegetarian comfort food, brown butter polenta, spiced chickpeas, winter vegetarian food