The shadows are changing, the sun is setting a bit earlier and pumpkin-flavored drinks are reappearing; fall is on its way. But in my kitchen, it’s still too hot to turn on the oven and I continue to favor meals confined to a one-burner operation. Plus, there’s still a lot of summer produce to contend with. As much as I’d like to accelerate fall’s impending arrival with heartier foods and warming, spiced drinks, the weather and the harvest are keeping me rooted in the present. Thus, I give you fresh corn polenta with no-cook tomato sauce. A meal not to be missed before the seasons change.
As you can tell by the stunning photographs, I’ve teamed up again with the lovely Ayna of Mothwing Photography. Remember our first “Cook the Farmer’s Market” collaboration at the beginning of summer with the Savory Sweet Potato Cakes? I wish for each of you that you find someone who breathes life into a project you love, and leaves you feeling renewed in your goals after each session together. That’s what Ayna does for me.
Fresh corn polenta is not my invention. It belongs to Ottolenghi, one of the most inspiring recipe writers I know of. I’ve added some aromatics and chosen a different cheese, but you should think of the basic recipe as a “blank canvas”: stir in different cheeses, add herbs, consider roasted peppers or basil pesto.
- 6 large ears of Corn
- Large clove of Garlic, peeled
- Dried Red Chili Pepper
- 2 lbs mix of Cherry and Heirloom Tomatoes
- 1 tsp Raw Honey
- Splash of Red Wine Vinegar
- Splash of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 bunch Basil
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Cut the kernels from the corn and add to a wide pan. Run a spoon or the back of a knife along the cobs to extract all the pulp and stir in with the kernels. Add enough water to the pan to submerge the corn kernels, then place over med-high heat. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Cut the garlic clove in half. Run the cut sides around the interior of a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic and dried chili to the pan with the corn as it cooks.
- Half the large tomatoes in your mix and grate on a box grater into the bowl that has been prepped with the garlic. This will breakdown the interior of the tomatoes while leaving behind the skin in one piece (which makes good snacking). Half or quarter the smaller tomatoes before adding to the bowl. Stir in the honey, vinegar, oil and a generous pile of sliced basil. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and continue seasoning until you're happy with the flavors. Note that the flavors will improve as the sauce sits, so consider waiting about 10 minutes between tastings.
- Once the corn has simmered for 10 minutes, transfer to a food processor or use an immersion blender to break up the kernels. In the end, they should be like porridge, retaining a coarse texture.
- Return the polenta to the pan and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, this time to dry out the mixture.
- Once the polenta has thickened, season with salt and pepper and grate in a nice pile of pecorino. Taste and continue to adjust the seasoning until satisfied.
- To assemble the dish, spoon the polenta onto a plate. Top with the sauce and a few reserved cherry tomatoes, some whole basil leaves and shavings of pecorino.
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