It is a little late in the season to be collecting milkweed pods. There are still a few small ones on the plants, and by small I mean under two inches, but for the most part they are going to seed now. When I collected pods for my first recipe, I had extra which I blanched and froze for future use. If you don’t have young plants with immature pods or some pods stowed away in your freezer, you could make this recipe just as easily with okra (which has a very similar taste), peppers or zucchinis. In any case, blanche the vegetables first. If you are collecting milkweed pods, please refer to my post on “Milking the Weeds”.
I chose to make a vegan and gluten free recipe. Using polenta, mixed with dried mushrooms and chili peppers, I found there was enough flavour as is – but if you want a richer and non-vegan recipe, add 1/2 cup of shredded hard cheese and/or sprinkle some cheese on top before baking. Use whichever herbs you prefer, fresh if possible. I used thyme, but parsley, basil, tarragon etc. would all be good. I also used powdered sumac as a garnish, but paprika would work just as well. Choose your peppers according to how hot you want it – the serrano peppers I used with seeds made it noticeably hot, but not overwhelming.
Milkweed Pods Stuffed with Polenta
36 cleaned (seeds removed) and parboiled milkweed pods, between 1 and 2 inches
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
3 cups boiling water
3 Tbsp dried mushrooms, chopped
2 dried chili peppers, chopped
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh or 1/2 Tbsp dried fresh herbs
a light sprinkling of oil and sumac or paprika
Pour boiling water over the mushrooms and chilis and set aside until the water cools.
Fry the onion in olive oil until translucent, but not browned. Add the water, mushrooms, salt, chili, herbs and cornmeal, and cook over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan – about five minutes.
Fill the pods while the mixture is still hot. Place them in a shallow casserole dish, and spray or drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some sumac or paprika on top. Bake in a preheated 400 F degree for about 15 minutes, until they are heated through and beginning to brown on top.
Serve warm. Makes approximately 36 pods.
These make a delicious side dish, or can be served as an appetizer.