Lemony Asparagus and Broccoli Rabe over Polenta Recipe

By Marcus Samuelsson |

My happiness hinges on asparagus season.

Come February I am so sick of everything that even so much as resembles a citrus fruit (well, maybe except for Meyer lemons…but let’s be honest. They are the needle in an otherwise dreary haystack of oranges) that every trip to the supermarket feels apocalyptic. Or, at the least, extremely barren. 

I mean, sure, I suppose I could purchase asparagus out of season.  But you get stoned for things like that here.  Or at least shunned.  The cashiers all glare at you with deep and unruly disdain, no one wants to sit next to you on the subway (although that is not necessarily a bad thing), and even your roommates seen unable to look you in the eye.

No, best to just wait it out.

If you live in the northeast, that means waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting (and waiting) for a spring that never seems to want to come.  Trudging through the snow in the middle of March. Dejectedly. With your 500th grapefruit of the season in hand.  Asking yourself why exactly you do not live in southern California.

Then, of course, it happens.

It might be April.

It might be May.

(Heck, some years, it might even be June.)

That first locally grown asparagus finally decides to show it’s ruddy little face at the supermarket or farmer’s market or wherever it is you purchase your produce.

And, if you’re like me, you buy it in bulk (moderation is not exactly my middle name) and then eat it at almost every meal until it’s gone.  With glee.

Those first batches, especially, which are sweet and young, need nothing more than a quick roast in the oven.  Or to be tossed with broccoli rabe and chickpeas and a dash of lemon juice, all of which is then thrown over some polenta, as is done here.  Quick, simple and for the lemon lovers out there – utterly delicious.

Adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Prep Details

Servings: 4



4 cups veggie broth

2 cups water

2 cups polenta

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp dried basil


1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup veggie broth

1/2 tsp dried basil

black pepper, to taste

zest of 1 lemon, freshly grated

juice of half a lemon

1 tsp cornstarch

1/4 cup water

Asparagus and Broccoli Rabe

1 bunch asparagus, about a pound, woody ends cut off and cut into 1-inch segments

1 bunch broccoli rate

zest of 1 lemon, freshly grated

juice of 1 1/2 lemons

salt, to taste


Photos: Joanne Bruno

1. Bring the 4 cups veggie broth and 2 cups water to a boil in a deep saucepan. Slowly whisk in the polenta, garlic, and basil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently in order to prevent sticking. Cook until very thick and smooth. Season with salt to taste.

2. While the polenta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet and saute the onion until it is browned, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and chickpeas, and cook for one minute. Add the broth, basil and black pepper and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the lemon peel and juice. In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water until dissolved. Pour into the pan, stir to mix, and then simmer until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once it boils, toss in the asparagus and broccoli rabe. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Strain. Toss with lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt, to taste.

4. Portion out the polenta into four bowls. Top each with the chickpea mixture as well as the asparagus and broccoli rabe mixture.