Polenta with Lemon-Garlic Raab + Chickpeas

Polenta with Lemon-Garlic Raab + Chickpeas



In our marriage counseling, William and I learned about family of origin and the long-held beliefs, values, and challenges we bring into our relationship. Like many relationships, the arguments we often have are about money. I have a vivid memory of a late-night ‘discussion’ my parents had when I was quite young, which I wasn’t supposed to overhear. It was about money, of there not being enough to make it to the end of the month, and I laid in bed that night unable to sleep, as if the panic and fear in their voices transitioned directly into my pysche and lodged there permanently.

To this day, I hate thinking about money. I’ve grown to avoid the responsibility of it in our marriage because in doing so, maybe its stresses will go away (logical, I know). I fought hard with William for years about having a credit card because despite his logic that it’s wise to build credit, I couldn’t get over the memories of watching my parents painstakingly climb out of debt from this system, of the shame of growing up eating free hot lunch at school, of wearing shoes that cost $10 from the local budget store when all my friends were wearing the trendy $100 ones.

It is interesting to me now how I never went hungry growing up (quite the opposite with a large garden and ranch) and I never lacked anything I needed. But as soon as I was able to compare myself to others, I decided that I lacked some of the trendy material things my peers had. I feel nothing but deep admiration for my parents for climbing out of a tough place and gratitude for their teachings about wise spending and saving. And I wouldn’t choose to go back and change those early circumstances even if I could. Perhaps because of my parents’ teachings, and probably more out of fear, I operate largely as if I don’t have money and jump to panicky reactions when talking about spending. It tends to create tension and resentment.

I also feel guilty and ashamed of spending on things my parents are frugal about.



Like food. I prioritize spending on food.

I volunteer for a local food action team whose mission is near and dear to my heart, to promote eating food that is grown or processed locally within a six-county region. The group’s reasons for striving for a more locavore diet are many, and I’m sure every member would answer differently as to why eating local food is important: for the local economy, for the environment, for health, etc. I like all of these reasons and more, but the one that is most important to me is the connection to a place and to a people, to feel as if I am a part of something meaningful, rather than consuming the mass-produced commodity of our time.



For most people, the largest barrier to purchasing foods grown locally is usually cost. I’ve heard it across the board from individuals I know are well-off to those that surely are not. Like the choice of what we eat, how we spend our money is highly individual and emotional. And though I choose to support people, businesses, and values I believe in, I really strive to eat frugally too. Our action team goal for the past couple years has been to promote eating ‘local on a budget,’ and I have been very interested in this topic.

I often feel like a fraud though, when I even talk about eating frugally or consuming local foods. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not overly rigid about sourcing or labels. We still have olives in our fridge from Greece, tea from China by way of Ireland, and staples in our pantry from all across the globe. A lot of my food choices have more to do with my tendency to explore one or two ingredients in a variety of ways for weeks at a time–and it often leaves less consideration for a budget and a place. William I and have been eating loads of broccoli this last month, for example, and not one of those tasty florets has come from a local farmer. Likewise, my weird current craving for coconut yogurt is not a frugal indulgence. So to help me walk the talk of eating local on a budget, I plan to share a little more of the meals in this space that help me engage in what I believe in. I hope you’ll be inspired to think about the seasonality of ingredients and recall there are persons behind our foods that worked hard to provide that nourishment–and perhaps even explore more of the local offerings in your area.



This polenta dish features raab, which can also be called rabe and rapini. If you google it, you might read that it is a unique variety related to broccoli; this is not necessarily the case to the farmers and gardeners I know. At this time in the season, all of last year’s brassica crops that have overwintered are finally telling us their time has come, the weather and light are changing, and instead of continuing to produce nice big leaves, they’re putting their energy into flowering and eventually setting seeds. So all the local farmers are selling the last of what these plants are offering as kale, sprouting broccoli, arugula, and mustard raabs. They are tasty, nutritious, and have cute little broccoli-like florets. We are currently in the three-four week window where these plants are available and they’re likely to be found from a farmer or perhaps a grocery store which sources directly from farmers.

Secondly, I used Abenaki corn polenta in this recipe, which comes from a local farmer specializing in grains and legumes. Abenaki is a heritage corn and is quite beautiful when ground, with its speckling of red and gold pieces.

Due to some dedicated farmers, this meal came almost entirely from the two counties I live and work in, and given our food action team parameters of an $8 meal for a family of four, can be counted as ‘local on a budget’ as well. Lastly, it is a meal I’ve made more times than I can count during the late-winter/early-spring months, and it is one I’d gladly make for all my friends.




Polenta with Lemon-Garlic Raab + Chickpeas, serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove of garlic, minced

3 cups vegetable stock or water

1 tsp salt

1 cup polenta


1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoons olive oil

½ a medium onion, or 2 large leeks, minced/sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 medium bunches of raab (kale, sprouting broccoli, mustard, arugula, etc.)

2 cups cooked garbanzos

juice from ½ a lemon

pinch of salt



  • Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan with the minced garlic. As the garlic starts to sizzle, add stock or water, and salt. Bring to a boil. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking until the mixture is very thick, about 30 minutes. Add additional salt to taste.
  • Meanwhile, remove the longer stems from the raab and chop into 1-2-inch pieces. Slice the leaves and florets into longer 3-4 inch pieces and set aside.
  • In a medium-sized pan, toast the red pepper flakes for 30 seconds or so over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions and cook over slightly lower heat until they begin to caramelize. Add the raab stem pieces and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes more. Then add the raab leaves and florets and let wilt, untouched for a couple minutes before stirring together. Add the garbanzos, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Stir and remove from heat.
  • Serve in a bowl, all together.


Miso Quinoa Polenta



The other day, a girl in my high school group asked what I was like when I was her age. She asked what I did when upset, my teenage equivalent to eating a tub of ice cream in front of a sad movie. I thought a moment and suddenly remembered sitting on the floor in my room with the green carpet and sea foam walls, back pressed up against the bed, journal out and angry music turned up loud. I’d write poetry.


I wrote a lot of terrible poetry. I also wrote some poems that were quite good, words that I still have and to this day, can bring chills in their ability to convey a feeling, to put me back in the exact moment of their writing.




My AP English teacher singled out a particular poem one day during my senior year. Standing at his podium, he read it aloud to the class. I still recall the moment because I was incredibly embarrassed. I mostly reserved my poetry-releases to funny bits in birthday cards, never sharing the serious ones. Though he didn’t say my name, I sat there petrified, afraid I’d be called out. I don’t know why I’d chosen that particular poem to submit for a class assignment; perhaps because it was powerful, those words having been torn from somewhere I didn’t know existed. Having them on paper was a vulnerability and the very act of sharing with my teacher was scary enough; having them read aloud to a room full of peers was unnerving. If only those words were safer, lighter-hearted, less mature, I would have been more fine in sharing.


Mr. Colley having done reciting, he and the others praised those words, commending their particular arrangement. As I listened, I allowed myself to momentarily separate, treating the words as if they were the work of another. In some ways their ownership wasn’t mine as in the throes of writing, I never really had a choice in putting them down.




I share this memory because it’s exactly what I felt in writing and sharing my last post.


I cannot begin to express what it is like to sort through all the words, thoughts, and feelings inside and pull them out, one by one, getting them down on a page exactly as they were meant to be, and then having them composed, opening a window and flinging them out to the world haphazardly, not knowing why or what will become of them, knowing only they need to be flung.


I’m only just recovering from the result.


I am overwhelmed by the response; by the amount and depth of public and private messages received. The summary, if I can summarize, is that it is important to be real, to be vulnerable, to share the highs and the lows and to help each other out in our improving.




My dear friend Kari shared a mantra on her blog that she spent a year striving to live by. I was so inspired by Kari’s mantra that I wrote it down and plastered it to the back of my phone. When it wore off, I tucked it away in my purse. On the days I am furthest from living by them, I seem to randomly pull that wisp of paper out and gain an instant paradigm shift.


Kari’s words:  Be brave. Be kind. Be true.


I don’t have preconceived notions that anything I say here is particularly important in the grand scheme of things or even inspiring to others, but I do know that Kari’s words stuck with me. I’ve been pondering them, applying them, being brave with them. In passing them along, I hope Kari’s mantra can serve as a guide for you, just as it has guided me. In whatever ways that apply, I hope you can be brave. I hope you can remember to be kind. And when life brings little nudges, I hope you can be true.




Miso Quinoa Polenta, serves 3-4

I’ve been making a mess of polenta this spring and one day, realizing I was short on cornmeal/polenta, I grabbed the quinoa and my coffee grinder and inspiration was born. The result is a nice change from both quinoa and polenta, and combines the best of both. I used a tri-colored quinoa, so the result is a touch gray, but any type will do. Grind it down to a fine meal in batches. As for the miso, I have only tried this with a soy-free chickpea miso that I purchase from a big bulk container at the co-op. I think it is this kind, but I’m not entirely sure. Regardless of what you choose, I recommend a lighter type. 

1 cup quinoa

2 + cups broth of choice or water

1 Tbs. light miso

1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced

3-4 spring carrots, finely grated

a big handful of salad greens

spring onion greens, sliced

4 eggs, fried, or protein of choice

sunflower seeds for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

  • In a medium pot, bring water or broth to a boil. Slowly, whisk in the quinoa polenta, making sure no clumps form, and turn down to medium-low. Cook until it is as thick as you desire, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more liquid as needed. Turn off the heat and stir in miso and salt and pepper to taste.
  • While polenta is cooking, prep the vegetables and fry the eggs.
  • Spoon the polenta into plates or bowls, toss on the vegetables, sunflower seeds, and eggs. Enjoy!