Many people are accustomed to using polenta as a foundation, with a meat or tomato sauce spooned over the top. But in this preparation, the polenta is the star attraction, cooked with chopped broccoli until the vegetable all but melts. By the time the polenta loses its graininess, it will be almost as green as spinach pasta, thanks to the softened florets. You can serve it directly from the pot, as a creamy accompaniment to roast pork or chicken, or you can pour it onto a board and let it firm up before slicing into wedges, as is done here.
Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 or 3 as a vegetarian main course
1 pound broccoli
1 cup polenta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Handful of freshly grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
Kosher or sea salt
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Cut across the broccoli to separate the crown of florets, preferably in one piece, from the stalk. Discard all but the upper 2 inches of stalk. With a small knife, pare the stalks, removing the thick, tough skin.
2. Add the crown of florets and the pared stalks to the boiling water and cook until barely tender, about 3 minutes for the florets and 5 minutes for the stalks. With a wire-mesh skimmer, transfer the florets and stalks to a sieve or colander, leaving the water in the pot, and run under cold running water to stop the cooking. Drain well. Chop the florets and stalks coarsely.
3. Measure out 5 cups of the water used to cook the broccoli and put it in a medium pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Add the polenta gradually, whisking constantly. When the mixture thickens, reduce the heat to maintain a steady but not too vigorous bubble and switch to a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes, then stir in the chopped broccoli florets and stalks. Continue cooking, stirring often and scraping the sides of the pan with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the polenta is no longer grainy and the broccoli florets have all but dissolved, about 30 minutes longer. Stir in the olive oil and pecorino. Season with salt.
4. Pour the polenta out onto a large serving platter, spreading evenly, and let stand for about 10 minutes to firm. Drizzle the surface with additional olive oil and shower it with more pecorino. Serve warm.
Originally published in Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers. Reprinted with permission.
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