While I owe you guys a recap of my Alternative Thanksgiving talk and demo this past Tuesday night, I just must share this amazing, oh-my-goodness-this-is-the-perfect-autumn-easy-but-fancy-pants dinner. Last week Barbara of Dish ‘n’ That shared the most amazing looking polenta recipe from Cuisine magazine: Maple Pumpkin Polenta. As soon as she posted it, I knew I had to make it. I mean, pumpkin and maple syrup and polenta all in one dish? How much better can it get?! The recipe comes from Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, New York, and all it is is roasted pumpkin (or canned), maple syrup, and polenta. So simple yet so flavorful! I can’t keep myself from scooping up additional servings.

But I needed something to go with the amazing polenta and that’s where, per usual, the lovely Grandin Village Farmers Market comes in handy. Paul Carter of Thistle Dew Farm in Charlotte County Virginia is my mushroom hook-up. He’s the one who supplies me with the utterly amazing (yet sadly now out-of-season) Chicken of the Woods mushrooms. Now, thankfully, Hen of the Woods are in season! For several months Holeman & Finch (my favorite restaurant in Atlanta) had a roasted Hen of the Woods Mushroom with polenta on their menu and I’ve been itching to recreate it for awhile, so now was definitely the time. At $5 a container, they’re not the cheapest items, but freshly foraged mushrooms are my Achilles heel.

Also at the farmers market, I scored a head of Tatsoi “Spoon” Mustard Greens. I was attracted to the mustard greens because 1) I’d never heard of them before, and 2) they whorl around a center stem like baby bok choi, and seriously, how cute is that? I’m such a sucker for cute food. All I did to these lovely greens was chop off the chunky midstem and then saute them in olive oil with garlic. A little bit spicy, a lot green and good-for-me tasting–they were the perfect accompaniment for the mushrooms and polenta.

The best part about this meal is that it’s so easy to whip up. The polenta takes 15-20 minutes and while it’s cooking you can saute the greens in one pan and the mushrooms in another. Plate all the pieces together and voila–one ridiculously good meal. And I must admit, it’s nice to be back in the land of cooking non-Thanksgiving food. I’ve got to get on the breads and pies, but that’s easy…and far less squash-oriented!

Pan Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushrooms with Maple Pumpkin Polenta and Tatsoi “Spoon” Mustard Greens

For the Polenta
adapted from Dish ‘n’ That/Cuisine magazine/Gigi Trattoria

1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 c ground yellow cornmeal
1 c pumpkin puree (fresh or 100- percent-natural canned pumpkin)
1/6 c pure maple syrup
1 tbsp Earth Balance
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. (CP note: I used the pumpkin juice left over from roasting my pumpkin–the juice you squeeze out when you put the roasted pumpkin in a cheesecloth.)

Add salt and the olive oil, reduce the heat to a simmer and gradually whisk in the cornmeal, a small amount at a time to prevent clumping.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the polenta is tender and is pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the pumpkin puree and maple syrup, and cook for another minute or two.

Then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Earth Balance. Add salt and pepper, if needed.

For the Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
adapted from New York Magazine

1/2 lb hen-of-the-woods mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped into three pieces
1 tbsp Earth Balance
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp fresh-cracked black pepper

Turn mushroom over to expose the stem. With paring knife, remove the core of the stem.

Using your hands, gently break mushroom into pieces. In a 12-inch sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium flame. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper.

Place them in the heated oil, taking care not to overcrowd the pan, and cook for 3 minutes. When the mushrooms have a golden-brown surface, flip them with a spatula and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add Earth Balance and rosemary, and baste mushrooms for 1 minute. Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil, and serve.

For the Mustard Greens

1 head Tatsoi “Spoon” Mustard Greens
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste

Snap the mustard green leaves and stems off the center stem of the tatsoi head. Rinse the leaves of any grit.

In a pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute until fragrant.

Add the mustard greens and saute for 3-5 minutes until just wilted (add 1 tbsp of water if necessary). Serve!

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