Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet Corn Polenta with Summer Vegetables and Italian Sausage

Sweet Corn Polenta with Summer Vegetables and Italian SausageThis recipe is a celebration of the corn harvest!

Schwebach Farms came to the Downtown growers’ market this weekend with a trailer full of sweet corn, so I bought half a dozen ears. Then some friends who have a wonderful garden called to see if I wanted to come over and help them eat their harvest… when it rains, it pours. What could I do but make this fabulous fresh polenta?

Because it’s so sweet, this polenta needs big, savory flavors to stand up to it. The recipe is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful vegetarian cookbook, Plenty. He uses feta stirred in to provide some heft, but I didn’t have any, so I used parmesan. He cooks the tomatoes to form a wonderful sauce with eggplant, but we have such beautiful fresh tomatoes now I couldn’t bear to cook them. And I wanted to grill my eggplants instead of simmering a sauce on the stove. So feel free to experiment!

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My version uses some gorgeous little Fairy Tale eggplants from Vida Verde Farm, basil and marjoram from my garden, thick slices of red tomatoes, and hot Italian sausage from Tully’s Market.



Eggplant is a marvelous vegetable in that it has a rather subtle flavor, but it really stands up to strong herbs like marjoram or oregano. Basil and sweet corn are a match made in heaven. The combination of eggplant, tomato, and herbs is meaty enough to stand up to the sweetness of this polenta even without the sausage. But there are so many great handcrafted sausages available locally that I just couldn’t resist. Several local businesses such as Tully’s, Keller’s, and my favorite, Joe S. Sausage in Los Ranchos, make their own sausages – the kind you’d actually be happy if you saw them being made.

1 pound Fairy Tale or other thin eggplants
2 Italian sausages
6 ears sweet corn
2 1/2 C. water
1/2 C. shaved parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. olive oil
2 T. basil, minced
1 t. marjoram or oregano, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or 1 T. good-tasting vinegar
2 large red tomatoes, thickly sliced

Heat a charcoal or gas grill to high temperature. Oil the grate and grill the eggplants whole, until their skins are brown and blistered. Turn heat down to medium, and put on the sausages. Cook until internal temperature is 160F.

Meanwhile, cut all the kernels off the corn cobs, and combine them with water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until the corn is very tender and the cooking liquid is mostly evaporated, about 10-12 minutes.

Transfer corn with any cooking liquid to a food processor or blender, and process several minutes to break up the skins of each kernel as much as possible. It should be creamy but still a bit chunky. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Stir in most of the parmesan, reserving a few curls for garnish.

When the sausages are done and have cooled a bit, remove the casings and crumble them into a medium-size bowl. Chop the eggplants crosswise into bite-size chunks, and add them to the bowl with the sausage. Toss with olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, and remaining salt.

Serve polenta in wide bowls, with a few tomato slices topped by the eggplant and sausage and a few curls of parmesan. Serves 4.
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