Fresh Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

Fresh corn polenta with eggplant sauce is a vegetarian wonder, with fresh corn folded into the polenta and an eggplant sauce that's tomatoe-y and rich.

what? eggplant and corn? it’s october now, and no longer summer. i know, i know. i promise the next post will be more fall-like (and if you want more fall, walk into any grocery store or look at any other food blog; there will be plenty of apples and pumpkins and spices and stews there). but in the meantime: fresh corn polenta with eggplant sauce.

making the polenta was surprisingly easy- just make sure to stir it as you add it so that it doesn’t clump up. i used a pretty coarse grind of cornmeal (yes! you can just dump in cornmeal and it will work and make polenta), so it took longer than 5-7 minutes; more like 12. that’s a guess, so do what works for you. it was creamy enough for me with only water, cornmeal, a pat of butter and a pinch of salt. i wanted it a little looser, so i stirred in a hearty splash of milk, though i could see half and half (or ooohhhhhhhh heavy cream) working very nicely.

the polenta alone was kind of gross. not encouraging, but i’m 99% sure you won’t have the problem i i did. the cornmeal had absorbed the indian spices that were lingering in the pantry (my dad keeps them for when he makes tandoori chicken, and it stinks up perfumes the whole cabinet), and they got reflected in the final polenta. when the spices got masked by the sauce, it was great as a whole fresh corn polenta with eggplant sauce dish; the polenta had some texture from the coarse bits, and the corn added sweetness. the feta added some much needed salt and a little bit more creaminess. the eggplant sauce was tender and flavorful, even though i crowded the pan and the eggplant didn’t get as much color as i would have wanted. lightly tomatoey, which was perfect because i wanted an eggplanty tomato sauce, not a tomatoey eggplant sauce (there’s a difference i swear!). if you want it more tomato based, keep all the tomato juices and dump that into the sauce. i liked the onion and garlic in there, but if you wanted a cleaner tasting sauce, you might want to leave it out.

Fresh Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce
polenta adapted from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, sauce from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Eggplant Sauce
1 globe eggplant, diced (I used 2 Japanese eggplants)
1/2 onion, chopped (optional; I like onions and I had some on hand, so why not?)
2 tsp tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1/4 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth or water; I used water)
1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes (fresh or canned; I used 1 can because I didn’t want to end up with leftover tomato), drained
1 T chopped oregano (I used 1 tsp dried oregano)

  1. Heat about 1/4 cup (the original recipe called for 2/3 cup; no, thanks for me, but you can if you want) oil in a large saucepan and fry the eggplant on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until nicely brown. You can add a little bit more if the pan is getting really dry/the eggplant is sticking badly. Add the onion (if using) and cook until softened.
  2. Add the tomato paste and garlic (if using). Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 6 1/2 T water, oregano and 1/4 tsp each salt and sugar; cook for 5 minutes until thickened slightly.

Polenta
2 T unsalted butter
1 cup coarsely ground polenta or corn grits
1 cup fresh corn kernels (frozen okay; defrost them)
4 oz feta, crumbled

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add the butter and 1 tsp salt. Stir in the grits and corn if using fresh; stir until the water returns to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes (I cooked it for 12ish minutes; it depends on the grind of your cornmeal and how soft you like your polenta), stirring occasionally, until the polenta is thick and smooth. Stir in the corn if using frozen and cook until warm. Stir in the feta (or garnish the top with it or both).

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