Oh man. A whirlwind of travel mayhems transported me to my mom’s garden this past weekend.
I was out in San Diego last week for work (consider me sunshine-swooned), and my layover flight home ended up terminated due to poor weather. My choices were: 1) Struggle to keep my eyes open till 4a.m. at the airport and achieve automatic world-class traveler status; or 2) Switch my flight destination from Philly to Baltimore and persuade my mom to come pick me up, just before the strike of midnight. Family for the win. I chose to forgo the world-class traveler award as soon as my mom gave me the go-ahead. That accolade can wait, especially in circumstances where a spring garden awaits. Oh, and let’s not forget that a ton more places are waiting for me to visit, too.
Naturally as soon as my jet lag wore off, I was outside inspecting the garden, and cooking up lunch with my findings. It happened to serve as a good thank you to my mom, and a pre-Mother’s Day gift. That deserves an accolade in itself, right? Just kidding.
I dream of days where I have my own garden. Or even just a yard. But for now, my mom’s will likely have to do until I migrate away from Philly. Luckily, it holds its own with an uplifting plethora of baby greens and herbs, all of which gave inspiration to this meal.
At their youngest, kale and collards simply can’t be beat. And now is the time to find them.
It’s been said life hardens you, and apparently this goes for greens too. You see, babies are inherently soft-skinned and sweet in nature. Apply this to greens, and you get leaves that are far more tender than when they grow older, and generally less bitter, too. (And since this seems to apply to humans as well, I’m keeping a “big kid” status forever.)
The soft and sweet characteristics make early spring greens perfect for raw preparations and for quick 2-minute sautes in recipes like this. From kale to spinach to swiss chard, any green that might be sprouting up in your garden or making its way to your local farmer’s market will work here. If available, go for a mix. That may just mean throwing in a few red lettuce leaves, too, and turning your mushrooms a strange shade of magenta. Es la vida.
Pile those greens and mushrooms on top of St. Andres cheese, already working to melt its way into creamy polenta, and you’ve got a spring meal that’s memorable, to say the least.
My best description for St. Andres is “a more heavenly version of butter”. However, if for some reason you can’t find it, opt for a soft cheese, one that’s ideally slightly stronger in flavor than brie. If baby greens aren’t at your disposal, feel free to use the big guys. Just add a few extra minutes to your saute time. Then tell those big babies to stop growing up so fast!
If you can't St. Andres, opt for a soft cheese, one that's ideally slightly stronger in flavor than brie.
Also, while baby greens are ideal, feel free to use the big guys. If you do so, simply add a few more minutes to your saute time.
- 1 1/2 cup polenta (yellow corn grits)
- 3/4 tsp. garlic salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups sliced shiitakes
- 5 cups baby spring greens, chopped (collards, kale, broccoli leaves, etc.)
- 3 lg. garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 tsp. fresh thyme, plus more to top
- 1/2 large lemon, juiced
- 5-6 oz. (or around 1/3 lb.) St. Andres cheese*
- Coarse ground salt and pepper
- 4 hard-boiled eggs
- Bring polenta and 5 cups of water to a boil in a covered pot. Reduce heat to a low simmer, and let cook for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until polenta is extra creamy and soft. Set aside.
- Slice hard boiled eggs and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
- In a large saute pan, lightly coat bottom with oil. Add mushrooms, and one or two minutes after, add garlic. Season with coarse salt and pepper. Saute, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms get a good sear on them and slightly brown edges, 6-8 minutes. Add thyme and baby greens. Cook for 2 minutes, until greens are wilted. Squeeze lemon on top and then remove from heat.
- Place polenta into bowls. Lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Divide cheese among the bowls so that it begins to slightly melt on top of the polenta. Top with greens/mushrooms, and extra fresh thyme. Place sliced hard boiled egg on the side. Enjoy!