Balsamic Asparagus and Polenta

Polenta is one of those things that I always really like when I order it at restaurants, but can never get it quite right when I try it at home. Except this time.
I am so happy with how this turned out, especially topped with asparagus and a balsamic reduction. The key to a yummy, creamy polenta is to not buy the instant kind, to salt the water, to stir constantly, and to add lots of butter.
The salty and buttery polenta is perfectly complemented by the sweet and thick balsamic reduction and the crunchy roasted asparagus. We also added some crusty olive bread that was left over to round out this Mediterranean feast. 

Ingredients
1 cup dry polenta
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt + more for serving
fresh cracked pepper
2 Tbsp Earth Balance butter
1 bundle asparagus
olive oil
1/4 balsamic vinegar

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the bottom 2 inches of the asparagus stalks. Place stalks on a cookie sheet, toss in olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, tossing half way through. Meanwhile, bring 3 cups water + 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly add the dry polenta to the boiling water and then lower heat to a simmer, stirring frequently to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan for about 20-30minutes or until thick and creamy. Use a long spoon because the polenta can bubble up and might burn your hand/wrist if you’re not careful. About halfway through cooking, add 2 Tbsp of butter and some fresh salt and pepper. Once the water is totally absorbed, pour the polenta into a lightly oiled bowl and let cool for 15 minutes to firm. Add balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, watching and stirring constantly. Once it gets thick and syrupy, remove from heat and transfer to a pour-able measuring cup. After the polenta has cooled slightly, turn over the bowl to extract the polenta (it should keep its shape). Slice and serve warm, with asparagus and drizzled with balsamic reduction. Add some fresh black pepper and/or another pat of butter, to your liking.

Serves 2

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