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Spring Forward to a Plant-Based Diet

By Nancy Eisman

A big misconception of plant-based eating, held primarily by those who equate feeling full with large amounts of heavy food, is that it’s not filling or satisfying. Of course my position is very different, in that flavor, colors, textures, and quality, nutrient dense ingredients will more than please the senses and the palate.
Image of Polenta
While you can accomplish this with a variety of recipes, often it’s the ones which have a bit of protein and grains or starches that best fit the bill when hunger is at its high point. A favorite carb I like to use as the foundation for a hearty, healthy spring dinner entrée is polenta, which in simple terms is yellow or white cooked cornmeal. Once considered purely peasant food, polenta is now found at fine restaurants around the world, and is a champion comfort food.
Image of Fava Beans
Polenta can be firm, then sliced, and grilled, baked, or broiled, with assorted delicious toppings, or cooked into a smooth, creamy, corny mush, reminiscent of comforting, filling hot grain cereal. While it can be a sweet breakfast treat, it is most often served savory style, which is what this recipe is all about. I chose some of my favorite seasonal ingredients, like fava beans, mini sweet peppers, baby parsnips, and snap peas, prepared each one in a slightly different way, then used the polenta as the base of this colorful, flavorful, fiber filled, savory, satisfying entrée you’ll be proud to serve your family and friends.
Image of Polenta Party Platter
Polenta Party Platter

1 package Melissa’s Baby Parsnips, cut in ½" pieces
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
½ teaspoon Melissa’s Hatch Chile Powder
1 pinch each of Sea Salt and White Pepper
2 cups Melissa’s Veggie Sweet Mini Peppers plus 2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pinch each of Sea Salt and White Pepper
2 cups Melissa’s Snap Peas
1 package Melissa’s Peeled & Steamed Fava Beans
2 tablespoons Preserved Lemons
½ cup Melissa’s Pixie Tangerine, juice
1 pinch of Black Pepper
1 chub Melissa’s Polenta
¾ cup Almond Milk
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
Sea Salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Image of cut polenta
Using a kitchen scissors cut a slit into each pepper, and then mix them together with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on the other half of the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes until parsnips are tender and peppers are lightly charred in places.
Image of Using a kitchen scissors cut a slit into each pepper, and then mix them together with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on the other half of the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes until parsnips are tender and peppers are lightly charred in places
In a small bowl mix the parsnips, vegetable oil, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper together until coated. Lay out parsnips on half the baking sheet. Using a kitchen scissors cut a slit into each pepper, and then mix them together with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on the other half of the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes until parsnips are tender and peppers are lightly charred in places.
Image of In the meantime, put the snap peas in a pot with a basket to steam, about 8 minutes, then drain and put into ice water to stop the cooking and retain the color and crunch
In the meantime, put the snap peas in a pot with a basket to steam, about 8 minutes, then drain and put into ice water to stop the cooking and retain the color and crunch. Set aside.

Rinse the fava beans in water and drain. Whisk together the preserved lemon and pixie tangerine juice, add the fava beans and black pepper, and toss to coat. Set aside.

To cook the polenta, add the almond milk to a medium sized pot and heat to medium-high. Cut the polenta into cubes, add to the hot milk, and mash with a whisk until smooth. Add more milk if necessary, plus the Dijon mustard and sea salt to taste. Continuing whisking until the polenta is creamy and heated through.

To present, pour the polenta onto a serving platter, surrounded by the parsnips, peppers, snap peas and fava beans.

(Note: I made a macadamia nut ricotta-style cheese and minced some Bright Lights chard stems for over the toppings, but the recipe is great on its own.)
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