Creamy Polenta Bowls with Pan-Roasted Vegetables
Creamy Polenta in Bowl with Thyme by Dena T Bray©

When our kids were little, the work of diaper changing seemed it would never end but, of course it did. Life became about milestones: the first day of kindergarten, school band concerts, sports award ceremonies and high school graduation, each with their own celebrations and markers. When Clark and his friends left for college, it felt like the entire town had emptied out. We had spent 18 years with other parents, teachers and community members nurturing our children together, working collectively toward their success in life. Then they were gone. I wondered if friendships begun in the P.T.O  would survive this new phase. Were my friendships so focused on my kids that there would be nothing between me and other moms when our kids moved on? Dinner at my dear friend Jane’s house this past Saturday reminded me that I am still here, whole, as is she, even if kids have moved out and family dynamics changed over the years. Over herbal tea and lemon pie, friendship is strong. So when my I dropped Isabel off for a sleepover on Saturday, I didn’t hesitate to say yes when her friend’s mom Pamela invited me in. With a glass of wine by the fire, we got to know each other beyond our relationships with our children. I could envision friendship and bonding over the years ahead as we watch our daughters grow, change and move on, as they inevitably will.

My husband Al went to see Clark in Montreal last weekend. I was glad Al went, glad when he came home. I knew he  battled the frigid Montreal weather and winds along southern Quebec through to Vermont all the way home, so I wanted to have a hot hearty meal as part of his homecoming. This Creamy Polenta Bowl with Pan-Roasted Vegetablesis a dish filled with many comforts. Polenta―coarse cornmeal cooked in piping hot broth―is finished with freshly grated parmesan to give  a rich texture without being overly heavy. Topped with steaming vegetables and tangy balsamic vinegar, this meal in-a-bowl is filling without any hint of heaviness. We ate this delicious dish with broiled lamb chops, red wine and a crusty loaf of olive bread. It was the perfect welcome home meal.

Note: I am offering a new workshop. Please join me for an evening of Apps and Appetizers on Sunday, February 9. We’ll take a look at what’s behind all the colored icons on your handheld device or computer, talk about the difference between a blog and a website, and become acquainted with free tools online. We’ll unleash the power of the internet in ways to enrich your life. The evening includes a light dinner in the comfort of my Etna home. Click here for all the details. Join me, bring a friend. All are welcome.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.


Polenta and Veggies on Flowered Plate by Dena T Bray©


Yield: 4 Servings


  • 2 ¼ cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup polenta (instant or traditional)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into thin slivers
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • ¼ pound green beans, rinsed and trimmed
  • 2 cups fresh kale, rinsed with stalks removed and cut into thin slivers
  • 2 radishes, rinsed trimmed and cut into thin circles
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Handful fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup pea shoots, rinsed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. To make the polenta, bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt. Slowly drizzle in the polenta, stirring the entire time to assure it does not lump up. Lower the heat to a simmer, then continue stirring until the polenta is cooked. Instant polenta will be ready in about 5 minutes; traditional polenta in about 50 minutes. The polenta is ready when it pulls away from the sides of the pan. It should be runny. Remove from heat. Stir in the freshly grated parmesan. Cover and keep warm.
  2. To cook the vegetables, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and carrots. Cook until they begin to soften, just a couple of minutes, then add the green beans. Let the beans brown on all sides and continue cooking until they are tender, another 5 minutes or so. Add the kale. Continue cooking until the kale is wilted and all vegetables are cooked to your liking*. Add the balsamic vinegar and give everything a good stir.
  3. To serve, divide the cooked polenta between 4 serving bowls. Top with cooked vegetables. Garnish with thyme leaves and pea shoots. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  4. Enjoy.


  1. Polenta is coarsely ground cornmeal.  American grits can be used in its place.
  2. Cooking time on the vegetables will vary according to their size and freshness. Tender green beans are best for this recipe. Large ones should be boiled in advance to tenderize.
  3. You can use any fresh vegetables and herbs you like for this dish. Plan on about ½ to 1 cup of vegetables per person.
  4. For a heartier dish, add cooked seafood, eggs or tofu just before serving.
  5. Consider serving the polenta alongside Chicken À La Marengo or with Pan-Grilled Chicken Breast with Greens. [/r

Creamy Polent and Veggies in Bowl with White by Dena T Bray©
Dena Testa Bray has been writing Gathering Flavors, a culinary blog, since 2011. She is a trained chef & ran a home based cooking school. Dena now designs websites, focusing on work with creative people. You can see her website work at She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and family.