Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fresh corn polenta with eggplant sauce


A few weeks ago I found myself in the Harvard Coop bookstore with some time to kill. Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook Plenty was featured on the display table in the cookbook section, so I picked up a copy to flip through. I'd heard of the Ottolenghi restaurants and had seen this book mentioned on a couple other blogs, so I figured I'd take a few minutes to check it out. Well, I probably spent 45 minutes sitting in the Coop with that book - I couldn't put it down until I had looked at every single recipe. Every dish was so creative, with mouthwatering combinations of ingredients that I never would have thought of. It really got my brain was buzzing with inspiration and new ideas. It was the most exciting cookbook I had seen in a long time, and for me, that is saying a lot. I knew I had to have it.

But...here's the thing. I buy too many cookbooks. And after the last round of cookbook buying, I promised myself that I would not buy any more cookbooks this year unless the price was drastically reduced (as in less than $5). I knew I could ask for Plenty for my birthday, if I could just hang on till October. So, with great force of will, I convinced myself not to buy it.

So for a few weeks, I contented myself with looking at Ottolenghi's The New Vegetarian column in The Guardian. And then...I found out that I was selected for a pretty sweet graduate fellowship that comes with a monetary reward. So I figured that I deserved to treat myself to a little something...and I bought Plenty. And also another cookbook. Oh, and some new baking pans. Um, so yeah...my resolve doesn't last too long when I prohibit myself from buying food-related things!

Anyway, that is the long story of how I came to own Plenty, my new obsession. This book is genius. I've made two recipes from it this week and I can't wait to try more. The first thing I made was the corn polenta with eggplant sauce, made with fresh corn kernels. Fresh corn - my other obsession! I loooove soft polenta and was really curious to try this version. Well, it was fantastic. Like Ottolenghi says in the intro, it's kind of like baby food, but in the best possible way. So comforting. And the eggplant sauce is quick and easy to put together and adds rich flavor.

What cookbooks are on your wishlist right now?

Fresh corn polenta with eggplant sauce
Adapted from Plenty
Serves 5

I made a couple small modifications to this - I left some whole corn kernels in the polenta for added texture, and added a hot chile pepper to the sauce. I also cut down the oil a lot for cooking the eggplant, and reduced the amount of cheese in the polenta to suit my taste.

For eggplant sauce:
1/4 cup canola oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 tsp tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 small hot chile, chopped, seeds removed if you want to cut down on heat
6 1/2 tbs water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbs chopped fresh oregano

For polenta:
1 1/4 lbs. of kernels cut from fresh ears of corn (about 5-6 ears)
2 1/4 cups water
3 tbs butter
4 oz. grated cheddar or crumbled feta cheese (or more, if you want)
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Make eggplant sauce: Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add eggplant and saute until soft and browned in spots, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, hot chile, water, salt, sugar, and oregano, and cook for 5 minutes to allow tomatoes to break down and flavors to meld. Set sauce aside and rewarm before serving.

Make polenta: Place corn kernels and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium hear. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, reserve 1 cup of corn kernels and then transfer the remaining kernels to a food processor. Leave the cooking water in the saucepan. Process the kernels for 5-7 minutes, until a fairly smooth paste forms. If the mixture is too dry, add some of the cooking water. Transfer corn paste back to the saucepan containing the cooking water and add the reserved corn kernels. Cook at a low simmer, stirring frequently, until the polenta thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Fold in the butter, cheese, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serve polenta in bowls with eggplant sauce spooned in the center.


  1. I am making this recipe! That is all.

  2. This looks wonderful. I love the fresh polenta. I have a bag of corn in the fridge....

  3. Kevin and Amy - let me know what you think if you try this!

  4. Ranjani, I will cook it and do a write up for my Saturday piece called Test Kitchen. Each Saturday, I try a recipe from a fellow blogger. It probably won't be this Saturday (going to the Wine Blogger Tour in the North End) but the next one.

  5. That book sounds awesome! I have dozens of cookbooks on my list but am also trying to restrain myself (books include The Joy of Cooking, Sunday Suppers, Vegetable Dishes I can't live without, Tender... yeah, I can keep going!)
    Love how creamy the polenta looks. Adam doesn't like eggplant (silly guy!) but I think he'd love the polenta part. I'm saving this recipe! :)

  6. I took the Ottolenghi cookbook out of the library. Amazing! I've been trying to cut down on cookbook buying too but I might end up breaking down.

  7. I can't believe I never noticed this recipe even though it must be staring me in the face all this time! Plenty is definitely a gorgeous cookbook...one of my favorites. Can't wait to try this!


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