Polenta Pie with Wild Green Pesto and Zucchini Ribbons

Hello!

What a year, ha?! It felt like this 2020 was going to be special and bring new beginnings, but I’m sure no one could’ve imagined the change it is bringing in the most dramatic way possible. I often like to say that nature tends to be more creative and shocking than we think, delivering lessons we need to adapt, grow and evolve. Perhaps we have been giving ourselves way too much freedom to enjoy nature’s abundance, giving nothing in return. Not even gratefulness. Could this simple and quite fragile virus be just a lesson on our greediness and cracks in our global immunity, I wonder.  

Spring is the season of the Kapha Dosha, when all the excess phlegm or mucus in the body needs to be liquified and expelled. Pungent herbs, such as rosemary – are powerful allies for reducing congestion, relieving coughs and breathing problems.

Rosmarinus officinalis

What happens when there are no more schedules, long drives to work, traffic noise, heavy and intoxicating air, no more social roles to play day in, day out. Anxiety, restlessness, agitation and racing thoughts arise. And let me be honest with you, I’m feeling it all too. The Vata dosha ruffles the nervous system bringing a wave of discomfort that never ceases to surprise me.

In this world that has been perpetually spinning faster, creating a culture that values do-more-do-faster attitude, people seem to have forgotten how powerful and healing stillness can be. And truth be told, stillness isn’t always comfortable, especially when not fostered in our lifestyle. But the need to create the space for rest, self-reflection and integration, is one of the deepest human needs we should embrace, honour, and promote more as a culture. Only from such a space can we reignite our creativity, strengthen our emotional health and support our immunity response. Stress-management is an important pillar of our well-being. The one least valued in today’s culture.   

If you can’t go outside, go inside. 

With the spring Shakti awakening through blossoming cherry and almond trees, with birds songs breaking through the dawn and dusk, with the sounds of abounding rivers carrying the melted snow, the nature has began its new cycle. It has reemerged from its winter stillness with an intense strength to birth a new life. How much beauty, how many lessons have we been given these last weeks. Nature has gifted us the slowness we’ve needed and nature needs it too. 

I cannot say this came easy to me. With my son full-time at home, my in-laws battling the virus, life has gotten a new pace these past weeks. There are few quiet and peaceful moments I could spend to down-regulate my nervous system and yet, I’m loving the unstructured flow of our days, bringing many unexpected silly little moments and creating memories we will treasure for life. Val and I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking, baking, and even capturing one of our bread baking adventures on camera (watch our No Yeast No Knead Bread Recipe). We have sawn spinach, rucola, parsley, strawberries, and much more in our garden. We’ve been walking barefoot, feeling earth’s warmth and reconnecting with our roots. We’ve been looking at the brightly shining starts and honouring the Pink Moon – the biggest and brightest moon of the year. We’ve prayed.

Nature’s offerings are abundant at this time of the year. Nettles, dandelion, wild garlic, asparagus, lemony sorrel, wild mustards are mostly pungent herbs with astringent, antioxidant, rejuvenate, diuretic, digestive, and many other medicinal actions on the body. Harvest your own medicine this spring!

Wild Green Pesto

By letting go of structure and practice, I have found peace and emotional recharging in a flour dusted kitchen, muddy shoes and messy hair. Full bellies and late night cracking laughs bring comfort, strength and hope in times of a drastic shift we face as a human race, as a part of this beautiful ecosystem. 

Recently I posted a picture on my social media of an epic pie we make on a regular basis. I have received so many requests for the recipe, and with Easter just around the corner, I thought this might make a perfect addition to your festive table. But I cannot see why it couldn’t become one of your regular go-to recipes whenever you fancy an eye-catching, crowd-pleasing, simple, versatile and delicious pie. 

Green dandelion leaves are bitter and astringent, making them (along with other edible wild greens) an ideal healing food during spring when body cleansing and Kapha pacifying regimen is in full swing. These can be used in salads with lemon juice, in teas, soups, risottos, added to stews, or turned into a delicious pesto. Combined with brightly yellow polenta, light and crunchy zucchini, this vegan, gluten-free, and beautiful pie will delight everyone at your Easter table. 

POLENTA PIE WITH WILD GREEN PESTO AND ZUCCHINI RIBBONS

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Ingredients:

For polenta base:

1 tablespoon ghee (substitute with coconut oil for vegan version)

1,5 teaspoons turmeric powder

2 tablespoons rosemary needle -leaves , fresh or dried, finely chopped or crushed in a mortar and pestle

1 1/4 cup polenta

3 cups boiling hot water

1/4 teaspoon of salt

A dash of black pepper

Olive oil for oiling the pie pan

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, optional

For wild green pesto:

3 cups of dandelion leaves (younger ones are best), you can use wild garlic, kale or basil

1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted until golden in colour – save 2 tablespoons for decoration

1 medium lemon, juice squeezed

2 cloves garlic

Salt, start with 1/2 a teaspoon then adjust to taste

For zucchini ribbons:

2 small zucchinis

Olive oil to drizzle

Black pepper

1/2 tablespoon thyme 

a few black olives, optional

In a heavy bottom saucepan melt the ghee over medium-low flame. Add chopped rosemary needles followed by turmeric and fry for 15 seconds until you can feel the beautiful rosemary aroma. Add polenta and mix well until all the grains are coated with aromatic ghee.

Remove the pan from heat (to prevent getting yourself burnt by sputtering polenta) and slowly add boiling water while constantly whisking to prevent lumps. Return the saucepan to the stove and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, or as noted on the package.  Season with salt and pepper.

Oil a pie pan with olive oil or liquified ghee. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on the bottom. Seeds are not necessary but they give a beautiful contrast, some crunch and extra nutrients (loads of calcium).

Pour cooked polenta into the pie pan and spread evenly with a spatula. If the spatula is sticking to polenta, try dipping the spatula in cold water, or oiling it.  Allow the polenta base to sit while preparing the rest of the ingredients, or at least for 25 minutes or more to firm up. 

To make the pesto, you can be a hard-core mortar-and-pestle person, or use a blender, or electric vegetable chopper. If using mortar and pestle, start by grinding the sunflower seeds followed by dandelion greens and salt. Then add garlic, olive oil and continue to mix and grind until desired consistency is reached. Adjust the seasoning to your own liking, adding more salt, lemon juice or garlic. Personally, I like my pesto to be a little chunky, with less salt and more garlic. Each body is different so find what satisfies your taste buds most. 

Prepare the zucchinis by slicing them into thin ribbons using a kitchen mandolin, vegetable peeler or carefully slicing with a sharp knife. You could also use a grater if nothing else available. Season the ribbons with olive oil, black pepper and thyme. I don’t use salt here as the pesto is usually quite salty, and I prefer to keep this layer light and refreshing. Salt would also make zucchinis turn soggy.

Spread the pesto on top of the polenta base. Perhaps you won’t need all of it, so reserve some pesto for later use (delicious spread on rye toast) . Spread the zucchini ribbons on top of the pie. I sprinkled some hemp seeds on top, with several black olives but this is totally optional. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes on 180C, or until the zucchini tops turn slightly brown. Once baked, allow the pie to cool down slightly before serving. Decorate with edible flowers, toasted sunflower seeds and edible greens. 

Notes:

  • You can make the pie a few hours in advance and serve at room temperature or reheated. Polenta base can also be made in advance. This is why I love making this pie for parties and family gatherings, plus everyone loves it. 
  • Use vegetables that are in season, replacing dandelion with other wild greens, such as wild garlic (my favourite!).

Calm your Dosha:

  • Feeling Vata – reduce the garlic to just one small clove.
  • Feeling Pitta – skip on garlic and add some cooling mint into the pesto.
  • Feeling Kapha – go easy on salt and oil as these tend to aggravate the Kapha dosha.
Happy Easter!

2 Replies to “Polenta Pie with Wild Green Pesto and Zucchini Ribbons”

  1. Hvala dušo na ovom naizgled jednostavnom receptu, koji uz najvažniji sastojak – ljubav, izgleda pravo remek djelo!

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