Buttery Herb Polenta with Grilled Mushrooms and Fennel Salad

The meatiness of the mushrooms and the freshness of the fennel can turn the richness of this polenta wedge into a full meal.
By / Photography By Tara Simpson | August 20, 2016



1 cup cornmeal
2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons herbs – parsley, thyme, basil, chives
2 teaspoons salt pepper to taste

Bring water to a simmer in medium-sized pot. Add salt. Gradually whisk in cornmeal until thickened. Add butter. Continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until the polenta starts to stick to the bottom. Remove from heat and add herbs and pepper.

Lightly grease a loaf pan and transfer the polenta into the pan. Allow polenta to cool fully. It’s a great idea to prepare the polenta a day or two in advance and keep wrapped in the refrigerator. Cut cold polenta into ½- to ³/4-inch slices.

Heat grill to high heat. Make sure your grill is clean and oiled, then brush the sliced polenta with oil. Place the polenta onto the grill and allow to sear for 30 to 45 seconds. If the polenta easily comes free from the grill, you can give it a ¼ turn and create cross hatches or place in a warm area to wait for the mushrooms.

Grilled mushrooms and fennel salad

1 pound of mushrooms – cremini, shimeji, oyster, shitake, king oyster
½-inch slice of red onion, cut into a round
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1½ tablespoons fennel fronds, chopped
¼-½ cup water, or vegetable stock
½ bulb of fennel, fronds removed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Cut large mushrooms in ½ (shimeji can be kept in bunches and the base trimmed later). Place flattest side down onto hot grill and cook for about a minute, until the mushrooms start to loose moisture and get marked. Remove from grill and reserve. Place thick slice of onion on the grill and cook on both sides until charred. While the onion is finishing, place a small pan on the grill and add oil. Remove the onion and cut into small pieces. Add to the pan and cook two minutes to soften. Add grilled mushrooms and water. Once mushrooms are warm and moist, add the butter and herbs. Season and reserve.

Slice fennel very thin. Place into a bowl with half of the olive oil and fennel fronds, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Toss and reserve.

To serve, place polenta on plates, spoon the mushrooms over the top and finish with fennel salad.

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