Polenta Baked with Corn, Tomatoes and Basil.

I’ve been a cooking maniac the last two weeks.  My tastebuds are back after chemo, and I’m so happy!  I’m feeling so much better — back to normal!

Susan made a fantastic dinner for Mom and me a couple of weeks ago before a concert at Davies.  This is a great summer meal because of the quality of corn and tomatoes available — it’s completely delicious! The recipe is from a Moosewood cookbook, Field of Greens.


Polenta Baked with Tomatoes, Corn and Basil

Make the polenta first, then the tomato sauce, and then the corn and tomato saute.


6  cups water
1 1/2  teaspoon salt
1 1/2  cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)

1/4  teaspoon pepper
Cayenne pepper (optional but I think it adds a lot to the polenta)
2  tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2   cup grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 1/2 ounces) (or provolone, cheddar smoked cheese)
Lightly oil a 9-by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.  Bring the water to a rapid boil in a large saucepan.  Add the salt, then vigorously whisk in the cornmeal.  Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the grains have opened up and the polenta is smooth.


Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the pepper, cayenne to taste, the butter, and the cheese.  Pour the hot polenta into the baking dish and set aside to cool.  For polenta gratin, cut it into 12 squares, then cut each square into two triangles.

Makes 24 polenta triangles; serves 6.

Tomato Sauce:

1 tablespoon light olive oil
½ medium-size yellow onion, diced, about 1 cup
½ teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup dry red wine
1 ½ pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, about 2 cups, or 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice
(Instead of the fresh tomatoes, I use 32 oz. Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes or San Marzano Tomatoes)
1 bay leaf
Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan; add the onion, basil., ½ teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper.  Sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft, about 7 to 8 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the wine and simmer a minute or two to reduce; when the pan is almost dry, add the tomatoes and the bay leaf.  Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf before assembling the dish.

Makes about 2 cups. (or more if you use the 32 oz can of tomatoes)

Corn and Tomato Saute:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 ears of corn, shaved, about 2 ½ cups kernels
¾ pound tomatoes, cored and seeded
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 or 2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 2/3 cup
Heat the butter in a large skillet and add the corn. Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the corn is tender; season with ¼ teaspoon salt.  While the corn is cooking, cut the tomatoes into large pieces – you should have about 1½ cups. Marinate the tomatoes in the olive oil with ¼ teaspoon salt and a few pinches of pepper.  Cool the corn and toss with the tomatoes, half the basil, and half the chilies.  Add salt pepper, and chilies to taste.Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Pour the sauce into the bottom of a 9- by 13- inch baking dish.  Arrange the polenta triangles upright in rows across the width of the dish, overlapping the triangles slightly; use all of the polenta.  Spoon the vegetables into the spaces between the polenta triangles, separating the rows as you go. Sprinkle with the cheese.  Cover and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 minutes more, until the gratin is bubbly. Sprinkle on the remaining basil and serve.Serves 4 to 6.


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