October is here. It is officially fall. That means a lot of things. For me, it means scarf and boots weather – my favorite time of the year. For my husband, that means it's football season. For both of us, it means it's time to cozy up with some of our favorite fall dishes. The ones your body craves as squash and root vegetables start pouring out into the farmers' markets. It's time for curries and stews, and soups and hearty bowls of warmth and goodness.
In my home this time of year, we eat a lot of polenta. Polenta is a traditional dish from central Europe that is made from ground corn meal. It can be served in a variety of ways from both creamy to crispy presentations. My husband and I prefer to eat the creamy polenta version. It's incredibly easy to make. Polenta is one of those dishes that lends itself well to improvisation and open adaptation and a cook-as-you-go kind of meal. You can make a bowl of creamy polenta both savory or sweet; you can top it with just about any vegetable, meat or garnish. The polenta will take on whatever flavor profile you give it.
This bowl of polenta incorporates pumpkin. 'Tis the season for pumpkins, am I right? And folks, pumpkin is not just for pie. In my opinion, its savory applications far outweigh its sweet ones. Pumpkin is a type of squash, like butternut or acorn, and we can roast it simply in the oven and eat like we would the others. It is loaded with vitamins A and C, beta carotene and fiber. It's good for you, and it tastes delicious. Now is the time to get your (savory) pumpkin on.
Sherrie Castellano is a health coach, food blogger, photographer and private chef based in St. Louis. She writes the seasonally focused vegetarian and gluten-free blog With Food + Love. She has contributed work to Driftless Magazine, Vegetarian Times, Go Gluten-Free Magazine, Food52 and Urban Outfitters, among others. You can find her hanging with her aviation enthusiast husband sipping Earl Grey tea, green juice, and/or bourbon.
Creamy, Cheesy Pumpkin Polenta
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large shallot
- 5 cups stock or water
- 1 cup polenta
- 1 cup pumpkin purée
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ¼ cup grated cheese of your choice, plus more for garnish
- pumpkin seeds (for garnish)
- thyme or parsley (for garnish)
| Preparation | In a large skillet over low heat, heat olive oil. Add shallots and sauté for 3 minutes.
Turn heat up to medium, add stock and bring to a simmer. Slowly add in polenta while stirring constantly. Cook while stirring until polenta has thickened somewhat. Turn heat down to low and add pumpkin, salt, pepper, turmeric and paprika. Cook polenta for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, so it doesn't stick to bottom of skillet.
As polenta finishes cooking, add cheese and stir until melted. Plate while hot and add more cheese, pumpkin seeds and herbs for garnish.