Pan-Fried Polenta with Chickpea Stew, King Oyster Mushrooms and Fig Puree Featured

Authors: herbivoracious

Pan-Fried Polenta with Chickpea Stew, King Oyster Mushrooms and Fig Puree
Pan-Fried Polenta with Chickpea Stew, King Oyster Mushrooms and Fig Puree

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of cooking a five-course dinner at Cafe Flora as a benefit for City Fruit, a wonderful organization here in the Seattle area that harvests thousands of pounds of fruit from trees that would otherwise go to waste and donates that fruit to food banks and sell some of it to local restaurants. They also teach pruning classes and generally act as stewards and conservationists of the urban orchard.

The best part about planning this dinner was that I got to use city harvested fruit in every course. Today’s post is (a variation of) the entree, with pan-fried polenta, a chickpea stew based on my peperonata, king oyster mushrooms, and City Fruit’s fig puree.

If you don’t have fig puree on hand, you could dilute this (quite tasty) fig spread  with boiling water to a saucy consistency. In the past it hasn’t been my style to put sweet components in savory dishes, but recently I’ve started to come around to appreciating that idea, which is especially popular in Moroccan cuisine. City Fruit’s puree had this rich, raisiny, winey flavor that I loved.

King oyster mushrooms are my favorite backstop when I can’t find wild mushrooms. They are available year round and are often a terrific bargain at Asian groceries. My first choice would have been lobster mushrooms, although chanterelles would be delicious too.

For the record, the rest of the menu was: ice-cold apple consomme with a few drops of rosewater, beet salad with fennel & apple slaw, a fried artichoke, candied hazelnuts, and an orange-olive oil dressing, a course of local cheeses from Calf & Kid with quince jam, and roasted Italian plums (which City Fruit had frozen at their peak) with a slivovitz Sabayon.

Pan-Fried Polenta with Chickpea Stew, King Oyster Mushrooms and Fig Puree
Vegetarian, gluten free and kosher
Serves 4

  • 6 king oyster mushrooms (depending on size – whatever looks like 4 portions to you)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 slabs of cold leftover polenta, about 6″ x 2″ x 3/4″ (see above)
  • 1 batch peperonata to which you’ve added 1/2 pound dried chickpeas, cooked separately until very tender (in a pinch, one 15-ounce can), heated in a saucepan
  • 1 cup fig puree (see above)
  • Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt) salt
  • Minced flat leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 450. Cut the mushrooms in half lengthwise on a diagonal. Toss with olive oil and roast until very tender. 
  2. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and pan fry the polenta until golden brown on both sides. Remove to a plate. With the skillet still on high, take the roasted mushrooms and sear them for a minute for extra flavor.
  3. Drizzle 1/4 cup of the fig puree on the plate. Top with two slabs of the polenta, one-quarter of the chickpea-peperonata stew, three halves of king oyster mushrooom, a few flakes of the Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt) , and a pinch of the minced parsley. Serve hot.

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