Summer means school is out, pools are open, and it's raining berries! Picnic tables are filled with bowls of raspberries, gooseberries, huckleberries, choke cherries, wild strawberries, blueberries, and the list goes on. Wild berries have been around since prehistoric times, and berry gathering was a family “social” time where even the smallest member of the family could contribute to the family stores and income by helping to pick buckets of berries. As I write this, I am sitting in the amazing berry patch at the Himalayan Institute in Pennsylvania. If you’ve ever been here you know the abundance of which I speak! Although, as I watch my youngest harvesting the berry patch, I believe more have ended up in his mouth than the bucket.
Polenta was a staple for the mighty Roman legions, used in their porridge and in a hard, crusty cake they could easily carry off to battle for quick-filling sustenance. Polenta has also been a mainstay in the Italian diet, from the north to the south, with peasants throughout the country utilizing its heartiness through the centuries. Its base originated as farina, changing to buckwheat introduced by the Saracens in the 1300s, and finally in the 15th century to maize. It is versatile and can take on the flavors of an array of dishes, from sweet to savory, which contributes to its continued popularity. One of my favorite uses is in cakes. Polenta is a great go-to in dessert for gluten-free families.
So without further introduction...Lemon Polenta Cake with fresh-picked wild berries!
This delicious summer morsel is made up of two parts: the fruit and the polenta cake.
1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds (you pick your favorite nut!)
1/2 cup finely grated coconut
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons lemon zest
Mix all together, set aside.
10 ounces creamed coconut—not coconut milk (I use Edward & Sons)
10 ounces sugar
4 tablespoons ground flax, mixed with 8-10 tablespoons water (let it sit for a few minutes to thicken)
15 ounces Tofutti cream cheese (or similar)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 pints freshly picked berries (or more…whatever your heart desires)
Cream the sugar and creamed coconut together, and then add in the ground flax. Fold the dry ingredients in with the wet (minus the Tofutti cream cheese). Gently fold in the lemon zest.
Use coconut oil to grease a 9-inch springform pan, using a light coating of polenta instead of flour. First, pour the Tofutti cream cheese evenly in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle the rosemary evenly on top of it. Then, gently pour in the polenta batter.
Bake at 365 degrees for 40 minutes.
Juice of 3 lemons, 1 cup of powdered sugar, beat briskly. Pour over your freshly picked berries and put in refrigerator. When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately pop it out of the pan and drizzle the berry-filled icing on top. Let soak in for 10 minutes and serve.
It is a heavenly delight that you will make again and again once you realize how simply divine it is.