Braised Kale & Pan-Roasted Garlic over Pumpkin Polenta Cakes (vegan optional)

In an effort to make yummier but healthier dinners, I’ve started cooking with different types of grains, starches and seeds. I love using polenta because it’s so versatile and is one of those Italian pantry staples. Since polenta is made from corn, I think it’s extremely important to source an organic product. Corn, especially in America, is one of the most processed foods and can cause inflammation in the body, but organic, sprouted corn can actually do the body good by giving it vitamins and a natural sweetness that some of us (me!) crave.

The natural sweetness in the polenta is actually why I paired it with pumpkin - it makes for a tasty winter meal, is full of great seasonal flavor and is indulgent without being completely unhealthy.


Pumpkin Polenta Cakes

  • 2 TBSPs butter (or vegan butter, I recommend the Miyoko’s butter)

  • 2 cups filtered water & 1 cup organic almond milk

  • 1 cup Organic Corn Grits Polenta from Bob’s Red Mill

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder (this gives the polenta an earthiness and cuts the natural sweetness)

  • 1/2 can of organic pumpkin puree (look for a product that doesn’t have any added ingredients)

  • 5 oz mascarpone cheese (or vegan cream cheese, the Trader Joe’s brand is great )

  • 2 tsps white wine vinegar

  • Salt & pepper to taste

  • Parmesan cheese to garnish (exclude if vegan or use nutritional yeast)


  1. First, don’t let polenta scare you - you will want to babysit it, making sure to stir it to keep from sticking/burning/clumping, especially once it starts to simmer

  2. Over medium heat, melt 1 TBSP of butter and then add the polenta, toasting it like you would with risotto

  3. After a couple of minutes, the polenta will look brighter in color and start smelling almost like buttered popcorn, at this point add the water, almond milk and turmeric and let it cook for 30 minutes

  4. You’ll want to keep the heat on medium-medium low, as you’re trying to get the polenta to soften and cook before getting too thick - if it boils too soon it will thicken up and will have a gritty texture that you won’t want

  5. Make sure to check in on the polenta, stirring it with a wooden spoon to make sure that it’s not sticking to the bottom or clumping up

  6. After about 15-20 minutes raise the heat if it’s not already on a low simmer and let it start to thicken up

  7. At about 25 minutes it should be much thicker and the polenta should be al-dente at this point

  8. Add the pumpkin puree, mascarpone, white wine vinegar, remaining butter and salt and pepper and let it cook for a few more minutes

  9. Taste to ensure you’ve seasoned it enough, if it doesn’t have a brightness to it, add more vinegar and if it’s too bland add more salt a little at a time until it’s creamy, rich, bright and has a subtle pumpkin flavor

  10. At this point, you can serve the polenta as is, OR you can put it in a parchment-lined dish and let is firm-up in the fridge

  11. Once completely cooled, you can cut out shapes or cakes, finish with a little parmesan and place in the oven under the broiler at 475 degrees for about 7 minutes until the top gets nice and golden brown


Braised Kale & Pan-Roasted Garlic

  • 2 cups of organic black or Tuscan kale

  • 2 tsps white wine vinegar

  • 1 TBSP butter, browned

  • 5 cloves of garlic, whole & crushed

  • Salt to taste

  • Organic sprouted pumpkin seeds or toasted pepitas, for garnish

  • EVOO garnish


Start this process about 15 minutes into cooking the polenta if serving out of the pot, as the garlic will take about ten minutes to get soft and delicious. If you’re making polenta cakes, start this process a few minutes before you put the polenta cakes in the oven.

  1. In a pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat (DO NOT BURN, your goal is to brown the butter not blacken it)

  2. Add the garlic and be careful not to fry the garlic or burn it, burnt garlic is extremely bitter and not a yummy addition

  3. The garlic should become almost transparent/lighter/duller in color and turning a little brown but not to the point that is should look crispy - turn down the heat if you suspect that it will burn

  4. After about 10 minutes, add your kale, salt and white wine vinegar - cook this for about 5 minutes until the kale is sautéed enough that it gets softer and covered in a delicious garlicy-butter sauce

  5. At this point the polenta cake should be just about done


Place the polenta cake on the plate, cover it in the braised kale and pan-roasted garlic with the buttery drippings, sprinkle with sprouted pumpkin seeds or toasted pepitas and finish with a little EVOO.