This is somewhat of a Dear John letter to Trader Joe’s precooked log of polenta, which got me through many a quick post-work meal, caused my roommate to think the words polenta and placenta are interchangeable, and reminded us that our fire alarm is pretty darn sensitive. In the end, it was a little too easy, and the log shape a little too unnatural. Not to mention, has anyone witnessed the Union Square Trader Joe’s line after 6 PM on a weekday?? I can think of 2,398 better things to do with my non-employed hours.
Enter Big Girls Small Kitchen, a recent addition to my collection of food blogs worth drooling over daily. Making polenta from scratch is one of those tasks that has always been on my culinary to-do list, but seeing it accompanied by the near-holy trinity of summer corn, tomatoes and basil was the kicker. This made a perfectly fresh side dish for BBQ chicken, but could definitely stand alone as a main dish with the addition of a can of cannellini beans or chickpeas.
P.S. One of the two bloggers from BGSK, Phoebe, has recently gone gluten free. So you can bet I’ll be looking to her for recipe inspiration again!
Tips: The 10 or so minutes of whisking goes by a heck of a lot faster if you can play Words With Friends with your non-dominant hand. (Slightly less fast if you’re stuck with all consonants.) Also, cleaning a pot of scalded milk is gross. Keep an eye on it!
[Original recipe from Big Girls Small Kitchen]
1 cup milk (any fat content)
2 cups water
1 cup polenta (sometimes labeled as corn grits)
1 tbsp butter
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp pepper
4 ears corn, kernels cut off the cob (uncooked)
1.5 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half (yellow and red)
½ medium zucchini, diced
1 medium shallot, very thinly sliced
Handful of fresh basil, chiffonaded
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or whatever type you have)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Make Polenta: In a medium saucepan, bring water and milk to a simmer. Stir occasionally to avoid scalding milk. Once simmering, slowly add polenta while continuously whisking. Turn flame to low and stir mixture for 8-10 minutes, or until polenta is the consistency of a thick porridge. When you run a spoon along the bottom of the pot, it should momentarily leave a clear path.
Turn off the heat. Add butter and cheese, and stir until smooth. Pour polenta into a greased 9x9 or 8x8 pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Make Salad: In a bowl, combine corn, tomatoes, zucchini, shallot and basil. Stir to combine. Add olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed.
Sear Polenta: Remove polenta from fridge, carefully flip out of pan, and cut into 9 squares. Pat dry with paper towels. (This will reduce the amount of oil spattering.) In a large skillet over high heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. After heating oil, add first batch of polenta squares, being sure they don’t overlap. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden and crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Repeat process until all of the polenta squares are crisped.
Assemble: Place 1-2 polenta squares on a plate, and top with a generous amount of corn and tomato salad. Garnish with extra chiffonaded basil.