Lamb, Peas and Mint over Parmesan Polenta
This recipe was co-inspired by my recipe for Chipotle-Cinnamon Lamb and Melissa Clark’s brilliant InstaPot cookbook, Dinner In an Instant. I love Melissa’s work, as well as Sam Sifton’s writing, and pretty much the entire NYT Food crew. One of Melissa’s photos inspired me to add the colorful greenery to this dish.
I originally intended my Chipotle-Cinnamon Lamb recipe for Tacos – and indeed, they did not disappoint. But I realized the lamb had so much more to offer. And after topping some Moroccan-Spiced Butternut Soup with it one night, I wanted a third option – something a little more fresh and bright. Given its stewy juices, I got the idea for an almost osso buco-like dish, and that’s where this Parmesan Polenta comes in.
Next up though, we needed to add some extra flavors. I added in some traditional lamb pairings of fresh green peas and mint. Then threw on some fresh tarragon because, no one can have enough of that in their lives (am I an herb geek, or what?!).
The polenta makes 8 servings, so you’ll have plenty of leftovers. Sprinkle on some fresh-cracked pepper and a tad bit of pecorino or cojita cheese and you’ve got yourself one 5-minute reheated meal fit for a king. Or a busy professional with high standards for dinner.
Essentially, this is the most beautiful thrown-together mess you’ll ever eat. 🙂 Don’t believe me? Check it out:
That’s just some downright pretty food. I would stare at it longer if I weren’t so hungry. Alas, that exact plate was in my tummy about 2 minutes after the photo was taken.
We’ve discussed the nutritional properties of herbs in other posts, but the short story is that they have tons of concentrated plant chemicals and are great for digestion. The lamb, if sourced grass-fed, is an excellent source of high-quality protein. Animal protein sources are all complete proteins, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids. Grass-fed lamb also contains one of the highest amounts of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a very beneficial fatty acid. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin B12, selenium and niacin – helpful for reducing stress and improving immune system. It is also a good source of zinc and phosphorus.
Before we get to the recipe, I wanted to chat a little bit about corn for whoever’s interested. (If you’re not interested, feel free to make gratuitous use of your scroll finger and get down there to those ingredients! I’m not offended!)
Mini-Lesson on Corn Industry
Here’s some crucial info on corn: First of all, it’s everywhere. It’s the top crop produced in the United States – 2.5 billion bushels on almost 14 million acres of land, as of 2013 (the latest stats I could find). And ever since we’ve become educated on the growing practices of the mainstream corn industry, we’ve sought to eliminate it as a source from our diet. But that doesn’t mean corn grains themselves aren’t beneficial. We sourced this polenta from Bob’s Red Mill, but any organic polenta is fine.
When it comes to corn you absolutely want organic. Why? Because about 90% of all the corn produced in the United States is GMO, specifically branded as “Round-Up Ready”. Round-Up Ready seed is bred to withstand the massive quantities of glyphosate that will inevitably be sprayed onto it. Round-Up Ready corn seed is produced by Monsanto, who conveniently also produces Round-Up. Remember the 2.5 billion bushels produced? 95% of it is GMO, and that market is cornered by Monsanto. In short, they’re making a killing! But sometimes you’ve got to wonder, at what health cost to us?
Glyphosate is a systemic herbicide, meaning it gets into every portion of the plant – not just the surface. Although it has been tested as relatively safe all by itself in the lab (and that’s the story the USDA is sticking to), scientists believe something more insidious happens when it comes into contact with organic compounds. It’s been linked to cancer in humans and other animals, as well as decreased motility and reproductive ability in fish and mice.
Because we don’t fully understand glyphosate’s impact on the body, corn is one of those things we recommend you reduce overall – particularly in its sweet (corn syrup) and deep-fried (corn chips) forms. It’s one of the reasons we recommend grass-fed meat, also: because the alternative is primarily corn-fed meat. For what corn remains in your diet, you can simply prioritize buying organic and local where possible.
Organic corn is not allowed to be genetically modified, nor to have Round-up sprayed on it. We’ve found Bob’s Red Mill to be a trustworthy brand – and meanwhile, whole corn itself is a good source of both iron and fiber.
Back to Our Recipe
We’ve turned this version of polenta into almost a risotto, creaming it up with plenty of dairy. Parmesan is often called the king of all cheese. It is exceptionally healthy due to its aging/fermentation process. It has both less fat and less sugar than younger and softer cheeses, because beneficial bacteria have partially digested these nutrients.
And as for wine pairing? You can’t go wrong with literally any red except maybe the deepest, darkest inkiest Syrah’s and Petit Verdot’s, which would likely overpower your meal. We’ve gone classic here by pairing it with two of our favorite Cabernet’s: One from Cana’s Feast (local winery here in Carlton who *doesn’t* do Pinots – check them out!) and the other from the very first place we ever became wine club members because all their stuff blows me away. That would be Walla-Walla-based Castillo de Feliciana, who produces entirely Spanish-style wines. DELISH.
Our Nutrition Information for this dish is based on one serving of polenta (this recipe makes about 8, 1/2 cup servings) plus one serving of Lamb and 1/4 cup frozen peas.
If you find a 1/2 cup of polenta to be not filling enough, feel free to adjust the serving sizes to suit your caloric/nutrition needs.