Polenta with Lemony Asparagus and Chickpeas

Prep: 20 minutes Cook: 15 minutes (with pressure cooker, 30 without)


By Susan Voisin
This is a perfect springtime recipe when fresh asparagus is available everywhere.


  • Polenta:
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or "no-chicken" broth
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Chickpeas:
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or canned, drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth or "no-chicken" broth
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (peel), freshly grated
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Asparagus:
  • 12 ounces asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (peel), freshly grated
  • lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse or flaky salt (such as Maldon), to taste
  • 4 tsp pine nuts (lightly toasted)


Bring the 2 1/4 cups water and the 2 cups vegetable broth to a boil in a pressure cooker. Add the polenta while stirring. Stir in the garlic and basil, lock the lid in place, and bring to high pressure. Reduce heat but maintain high pressure for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let pressure come down naturally. Stir well, salt to taste, and keep warm until ready to serve. (No pressure cooker? See note below).

While the polenta is cooking, saute the onion in a medium-sized sauce pan until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and drained chickpeas and stir for another minute. Add the broth, basil, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the lemon peel and juice. Mix the arrowroot or cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and add it to the pan. Cook over medium low heat until slightly thickened. Keep warm.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch asparagus for 2 minutes. Drain well and toss with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, and coarse salt to taste. Divide the polenta among 4 plates, and top each with a quarter of the chickpeas and asparagus. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of toasted pine nuts over each serving.

NOTE: To make polenta without a pressure cooker, use 2 cups broth and 1 cup water. Bring liquids to a boil in a heavy, deep saucepan, and slowly stir in polenta, garlic, and basil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until very thick (about 30 minutes). (Be careful and use a long-handled spoon because mixture can bubble and spit hot corn meal on your hand.) Add salt to taste and keep warm until ready to serve. This may also be served over another starch, such as risotto, brown rice, quinoa, pasta or potatoes.