Don't get me wrong, I love a good, traditional pesto. But sometimes I just don't feel like forking over $30 per pound for pine nuts and $20 per pound for Parmigiano Reggiano. That's why I love this version, made with spinach leaves, garlic scapes, mint and parsley. It's full of flavor from the pungent garlic scapes and sweet spinach and gets a nice tang from the addition of champagne vinegar. A traditional pesto, this is not, but is it delicious? Heck yes it is...
If you are somebody who has spent their days in fear of slow-cooked polenta, give this method a try. It yields a fantastic result without you having to constantly stir the pot and compared with the instant stuff, the flavor is infinitely better. My absolute favorite brand of polenta is Anson Mills Polenta Integrale, a coarse-milled heirloom flint that has a wonderful, complex flavor and toasty aroma. If you can't get your hands on Polenta Integrale, just look for coarse cornmeal - you can find it just about anywhere.
Green Polenta with Spinach and Herb Pesto
6 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups polenta grain
1 T salt
2 1/2 cups packed spinach leaves (about 1/2 a bunch)
1/4 cup garlic scapes (about 4 scapes), chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves (2/3 oz package)
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T champagne vinegar (or lemon juice)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 poached egg per serving
In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add polenta in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to loosen any clumps. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir until mixture returns to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer, stirring well every 5-7 minutes, until much of the liquid is absorbed and the grain is tender, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the pesto. Add spinach, scapes, mint and parsley to a food processor and pulse to chop. Turn processor on and slowly pour in the olive oil. Add vinegar, salt and pepper and pulse a few more times to combine. Set pesto aside.
Once polenta is cooked add pesto and stir well to combine. Remove from heat and allow to thicken, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes. Serve while still warm, with a poached egg on top, if desired.