When I was just a little Southern girl who knew nothing about artichokes, my bonus mom Debbie, who had grown up in California, showed me the light. I haven’t met a vegetable since that tickles my heart so much. Peeling back those meaty leaves, one-by-one, to finally reach the golden heart of the artichoke was truly exciting and helped me see vegetables in a whole new light as a kid. To this day, it is one of my fondest memories. Dunking and dipping those leaves into a lemony homemade sauce was pure joy (and yes–it was Duke’s mayonnaise with some extra lemon mixed in–we’re Southern afterall)!
Nowadays, I always have jarred artichoke hearts in my pantry year round. They are certainly not the same as a fresh artichoke, but if I can’t find good chokes in season, I can at least relish their perfect hearts in my pastas and pizzas.
The thing about working with fresh artichokes is that you need just a little bit more time to prepare them, and I like to give families an option to still enjoy this seasonal spring vegetable but in a way that’s fast and easy. I love to work with polenta as my pizza base because its creamy texture is divine with the texture of artichoke hearts. It’s also a great way to create a gluten free version of pizza and not feel deprived in the least.
Whether you have small kids or teens in the house, this recipe is perfect for allowing each family member to cut their own mini pizza with a cookie cutter and decide how much of the sauteed topping and grated cheese they’d like to enjoy.
This spring, we’re lucky to have a high school senior joining our team to complete her Capstone project. Elena Dennis is one of the most inspirational young women I’ve ever met. She is the founder and director of a free summer cooking camp for kids, Camp Cauliflower, that teaches children in the Novato California school system how to prepare fresh, healthy meals that are delicious. I know the impact she’s had, as we had many of her campers in our Joyful 12 School Project this spring, and they were some of our most eager students.
Please join me in welcoming Elena to the team by leaving a comment on this post. And if you’re feeling extra generous, check out her Kickstarter campaign to make year two of Camp Cauliflower even more successful.
- Polenta, 1 cup
- Bay leaf, 1
- Olive oil, 3 Tbsp. (divided)
- Salt, 1 ½ tsp. (divided)
- Black pepper, ¼ tsp.
- Cheddar cheese, 5 oz. (divided), grated
- Yellow onion, ½
- Rosemary, 4 sprigs
- Artichoke hearts, 11 oz.
- Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes), 1 tsp.
- Lemon, ½
- Take 5 minutes to get out all your ingredients, measuring and cooking equipment needed, and place them on a cookie sheet within easy reach.
- Place 4 cups of water, ½ -tablespoon olive oil, 1-teaspoon salt and the bay leaf in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil.
- When the water comes to a boil, start adding the polenta slowly, like it’s raining.
- When all the polenta has been added to the water, bring back down to a low simmer and keep stirring for about five minutes. Cover and let cook on low heat another 7-10 minutes (about 15 minutes total cooking time depending on how fine or coarse the polenta is that you are using).
- To finish the polenta: turn the heat off and add 1/2 cup of the grated cheese and stir again. Check for seasoning; add ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Pour the warm polenta out on a cookie sheet and spread until you have an even medium thickness shaped in a rectangle. Place in the refrigerator to speed up the process of setting the “crust.”
- While polenta is setting, drain artichoke hearts from their can, chop rosemary, and dice onion.
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- In a preheated sauté pan, use 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté diced onion with ¼ teaspoon salt and chopped rosemary for two minutes.
- Add artichokes and Aleppo pepper flakes, along with the juice of ½ lemon and continue cooking another 2-3 minutes.
- To make pizzas: 1) cut out polenta with a cookie cutter and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, 2) spread some grated cheese on top, 3) top with artichoke heart mixture, 3) sprinkle a little more cheese and drizzle lightly with olive oil, and 4) you can sprinkle a little more fresh rosemary on top, as desired.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes at 450F.