Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

At the beginning of July, I applied for an international rotation at work.

Well at the beginnning of August, I found out I didn’t get the rotation. It’s one of those things where the chances were slim to begin with but you start talking yourself up and then dreaming that the dream comes true.

That dream within a dream thing. And then none of the dreams become reality. Yeah… that kind of thing.

So, then I made the executive decision that I would be going to Ireland and Scotland anyways. Of course, on my own dime.

That’s after my trip to  Denver in September, Puerto Rico in November, Orlando for some work & fun in January and Houston early next year when my cousin has her baby.

Okay, okay… I can’t be too upset, the rest of this year and next is looking to be pretty fantastic.

But sometimes when you’re in the moment, there is nothing that can make it better, no matter how many times you tell yourself “there’s always next year.”

So here’s what usually happens to me when something goes awry 1) I completely shut-down. This include tears (complete sobs) and a phone call to my mother. 2) I decide to challenge myself in another way. And hope that I succeed. 3) I do both in that order.

This time I decided to try a new, somewhat daunting (or so I thought) recipe. Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce.

When this recipe says polenta… it means homemade by me (and you), not the kind from the tube.

Woah, wait, what?!?!  You said make your own polenta? Yeah, that’s right. This is the part I considered completely out of my league.

But don’t fret, dear friends, this was so much easier than I ever thought it could be. And I even cheated a little on the recipe to make it even easier.

Start with frozen corn. (This is where I cheated) Or 6 fresh ears kernels removed, as the recipe recommends. Bring it to a simmer with some water and then strain the kernels with a slotted spoon into the food processor and let her rip.

My food processor is a girl.

Pulse and process until it becomes a fine paste.

After processing, the recipe says to place back into the saucepan with the cooking liquid. I’m not so sure I would keep the cooking liquid. You want a mashed potato like consistency and when I added the cooking liquid, there was no way it was going to thicken up, even after the 10 minutes of simmering.

Thank goodness for my southern roots and always having instant grits on hand. I added 2 packets and voila, it thickened right up to the perfect consistency.

Once you simmer the polenta and get to the right consistency and apply the instant grits band-aid, in my case. Add in 3 tbsp. of butter and 7 oz of Feta. Or 8. Unlike alcohol, an extra ounce of Feta never hurt anybody.
For the sauce, start with Eggplant. Duh. Get her all diced up in about 1/2 inch cubes.

Apparently, my eggplant is also a female.

Then you’ll need some tomato and tomato paste.

This tomato paste was only 99 cents at Trader Joe’s… and it’s easy to keep in the fridge and use a teaspoon here and there. No more wasted, partially used cans!

After letting the eggplant cook up and soften, add tomato paste and a little white wine. Let that all meld and add in the tomato and some oregano with a little water, and cook it down for ten minutes or so.

Once the sauce has simmered, it is ready to pile on top of your polenta and enjoy.

This is so so good. And the homemade polenta blows the store bought polenta out. of. the. water. I would greatly appreciate you trying this out for yourself. K, thanks.

Here’s how to do it:

Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi and the WSJ.

Serves 4-6 depending on meal size.

Polenta: 

4.5 cups frozen corn kernels (6 ears fresh corn kernels)

2 1/4 cups water

7-8 oz. Feta, crumbled

3 tbsp. butter

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Place corn kernels in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Start eggplant sauce below. Using a slotted spoon, remove the kernels to the bowl of a food processor. Reserving the cooking liquid, to adjust consistency, if necessary.

Return the corn paste to the pan and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes to get a mashed potato like consistency. Fold in the  butter and feta, salt and pepper, and cook for 2 more minutes.

Eggplant Sauce:

1 medium eggplant, 1/2 inch diced

1/4 c. vegetable oil

2 tsp. tomato paste

1/4 c. white wine

1 tomato, diced

1/2 c. water

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. sugar

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (1 tsp. dried)

Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan at medium heat and cook the eggplant until softened and browned. Add 2 teaspoons tomato paste, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Add white wine, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato, water, salt, sugar, and oregano and cook for 5 minutes.

To serve, divide the polenta among bowls and top with eggplant sauce.

Hazelnut Cocoa Granola

I live my foodie life with one common theme. What can I do to make “x” (any given recipe) reflect the flavors of Nutella?

Okay this doesn’t exactly apply to things like fish or rice and grains or beans but most everything else (think sweets), it works. Just hear me out…

Oatmeal – add some chocolate and hazelnuts.

Pretzels – just dip those suckers in Nutella.

Cookies – definitely add some chocolate and hazelnuts. Maybe make some breakfast cookies.

Granola – add some chocolate and hazelnuts. It seems to be the only logical thing to do.

This recipe was inspired by the Joy the Baker Cookbook. But her recipe seemed like a little too much work, heating the wet ingredients in a saucepan and then combining with the dry…

Okay not really that much work but the less heating appliances to use the better. It’s been warmer (I’m using that term relatively, as in 75-80 degrees) in the city for multiple days now and most apartments don’t have AC, including mine. Oh and one of my fans broke. Thus apartment = sauna-esque.

Start with the dry ingredients. There’s oats under all that goodness along with almonds, coconut, cinnamon, cocoa powder, brown sugar, hazelnuts and wheat germ.

I decided to add hazelnuts and the wheat germ. Not to be confused with wheat cooties.

Okay, no one’s going to confuse them. I’m a CPA, we get 1-5 lames jokes a week. It comes with the title. I’ll cross number 1 off.

Add in the agave, oil, and vanilla. The cinnamon repels the liquid mixture… my nerd brain finds this fascinating.

Now, I can see why swallowing a tablespoon of cinnamon would be a terrible idea.  Because there are soooo many other reasons why it’s a good idea. Kids these days….

Combine it all together. It kind of starts to look like no-bake cookie batter without the peanut butter and butter (a.k.a. healthier) and it’s just as tasty. Make sure its all coated before spreading in a thin layer on a baking sheet and popping in the oven.

It’s so easy and delicious by itself as a snack but perfect with yogurt or milk too!

P.S. I realize I need to get some new bowls, not everything works in a red bowl and well, that’s all I got. Or maybe I’ll make more plate foods. I’ll let you know how this develops.

Here’s how to do it:

Chocolate Nut Granola

Inspired by Joy the Baker

Ingredients:

3 c. Oats

1/2 c. Slivered Almonds

1/2 – 3/4 c. Chopped Hazelnuts

1 c. Coconut

1/2 c. Wheat Germ

2 tbsp. Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 c. Brown Sugar

2/3 c. Agave Nectar

1/3 c. Canola Oil

1/2 tsp. Vanilla

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 1-2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

Combine all the dry ingredients and mix together. Add in the agave nectar and oil. Stir to thoroughly combine and coat all of the dry mixture.

Place on the baking sheets in a thin layer and bake until a deeper brown color, about 25 minutes. Flip the mixture 2-3 times during the baking process.

Let cool and then break apart. Serve as a snack by itself, with milk, or my favorite Greek yogurt. It will last in an airtight container for up to a week.