Corn & Tomato-Basil Topped Polenta & Corn Cakes with Sundried Tomato Relish

I officially have my first sunburn of the season, which must mean that it’s summer, right? (Really, it means that I was foolish and went outside to read for an hour despite discovering that I didn’t have any sunscreen in the apartment, but I like the “inevitable summertime” excuse better.) With summer comes corn, and while I haven’t tried any fresh-off-the-cob yet, the time for such things is fast approaching. I thought I would take advantage of these past few beautiful, warm days and share a few corn recipes with you preemptively – and if you’re antsy like I was, frozen kernels are a perfect solution.

Before I get to the recipes, though, I wanted to announce that Floptimism is on Facebook! Sort of, anyway. I’m finding all of this social media business to be a little tricky, but think I’m slowly catching on to Twitter and I can only hope the same goes for Facebook. It’s a somewhat sad little page at the moment, but I’m trying to update it with lots of interesting articles, quick photos & recipes, and things like that. I’m also hoping, once it grows a little bit, to be able to cultivate more interactions with you guys – I’m so interested in what you guys think and experience about the world of food! It’s so not just about what I cook up in the kitchen, so don’t be shy – I’d love to hear from you. Tried one of my recipes? Show me a picture or tell me what you thought! Found a recipe or article that you think I or other people would be interested in? Share it with us! Facebook and Twitter both open up so many doors for communication, and although I’m still testing those doors out and feeling overwhelmed by many of the ins-and-outs of the websites, I’m excited for the possibility.

Now, back to corn! The first recipe is a Corn & Tomato-Basil Polenta, which was overall an outstanding dish. It’s a very satisfying Spring/Summer dish that’s creamy but light, colorful, and smelled wonderful. The corn and tomato topping would make for a tasty salsa on its own, too, so don’t feel limited by the polenta if you’re not a fan or don’t have any on hand.

Polenta Bake with Corn & Tomato-Basil Topping, adapted from Dana Treat
Yield: 6-8 servings

The Ingredients
6 cups water
1½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups coarse cornmeal
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ - 2 cups tomato sauce (homemade or store bought)
1 tablespoon butter
3-4 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
¾ pound tomatoes, cored & seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped*
1-2 jalapenos, seeded & finely chopped
¼  cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
½ cup shredded or sliced mozzarella
6-8 cups loosely packed spinach, for serving

The Method
Prepare the polenta earlier that day: lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking dish and set aside. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan before adding the salt and vigorously whisking in the cornmeal. Allow the mixture to return to a boil, constantly stirring, and then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cover the pan for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until the consistency has smoothed out. Pour the polenta into the prepared dish and allow to cool at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate to allow the polenta to firm up even more. Once cool, invert onto a cutting board and cut into 12 squares, then halve each square into 2 triangles.**

Prepare the corn & tomato topping: heat the butter and corn in a large skillet, sautéing over medium heat until the corn has become tender, roughly 5 minutes. Season with a scant amount of salt. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into large chunks and allow them to marinate in the olive oil and pepper. Remove the corn from the heat and allow to cool before tossing with the tomatoes, half of the basil, and the jalapenos. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9x13inch baking pan. Arrange the polenta triangles upright along the width of the dish, overlapping slightly. Portion out the corn-tomato mixture among the spaces between the polenta and sprinkle with cheese. Cover the dish and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes before uncovering for an additional 10. Sprinkle with the remaining basil and serve over fresh spinach.

*I used dried basil, which was fine, but the freshness of this dish – especially if you use fresh corn – really deserves fresh basil, too. However, if you go this route, reduce the amount of dried basil to 3-4 tablespoon.
**The description of this preparation and how it is later arranged in the baking dish confused the heck out of me. Because I made a smaller amount, I chilled it in a smaller, circular baking dish and simply quartered the polenta once firm. I managed to make it aesthetically pleasing regardless, so if you feel a little unsure, just go with your gut.

The second corn dish is a corn cake served over salad greens with a sundried tomato relish. Although I was expected a fritter going into making it, it turned out to be more of a pancake or cake – but whatever you call it, it tasted delicious! The corn was sweet, the sundried tomato topping was mildly salty, and the lettuce leaves added a welcomed crunch to the otherwise soft and creamy texture of the cakes. Very enjoyable!

Corn Cake Salad with Sundried Tomato Relish, adapted from Yahoo Shine
Yield: 3-4 servings

The Ingredients
2/3 cup sundried tomatoes, reconstituted
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ tablespoon grated parmesan
½ cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup low-fat milk*
¾ cup egg whites
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
¼ cup dill
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
3-4 cups chopped green leaf lettuce

The Method
Prepare the relish by chopping the tomatoes and marinating in the vinegar and parmesan; set aside.

Whisk together the flour, milk, egg whites, half the oil, baking powder, salt, pepper, corn, and both herbs. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the batter to the pan, ¼ cup at a time, cooking no more than 4 cakes at once. Cook for 2 minutes, looking for the edges to dry, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes, until the bottom has turned a golden-brown. If necessary, reduce the heat as you go along (if making more than one batch) to prevent burning.

*I used almond milk, which is what I had on hand, and didn’t detect any off flavors – so feel free to use anything you have in the fridge (with the exception of maybe chocolate soy milk)!

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