charred corn polenta with herb + tomato salad

It is officially PSL season (pumpkin spice latte, in case you didn’t know), which means it should be time for all things pumpkin, right? While I adore pumpkin and pumpkin-flavored things,  I have a hard time switching gears so rapidly from summer cheeseburgers and popsicles, directly to warm and hearty pumpkin-filled fall dishes without anything to bridge the gap between the seasons.

In my neck of the woods it is still possible to get both fresh sweet corn and good tomatoes. I say, why let this last hurrah of summer produce go to waste just because we can already get our fill of pumpkin flavored coffee beverages? I wanted to create a dish that would combine the end of our lovely summer produce with the beginning of all the warm and hearty fall dishes that are invading my Pinterest feed as we speak. Charred fresh sweet corn finds its way into creamy, warming polenta, and it all gets topped with a fresh and bright salad of ripe tomatoes, basil, parsley, and olive oil. A little crumble of salty feta cheese on top, and it’s the perfect summer-fall hybrid meal or side dish! Did I mention it’s totally vegetarian?

charred corn polenta with herb + tomato salad

(makes 2 entree portions or 4 side portions)

1 to 1 1/2 lbs grape or cherry tomatoes
large handful fresh parsley, minced
1/2 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
feta cheese, crumbled

2 ears fresh sweet corn
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
2 c vegetable stock
1/2 c coarse ground polenta
4 Tbs sour cream
salt and pepper, to taste

For the herb + tomato salad: Rinse the tomatoes and slice them in half. Place into a medium sized bowl, add minced parsley and basil. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir, taste for seasoning. Chill until needed.

For the charred corn: Carefully cut the corn off of both cobs. Scatter evenly on a sheet pan, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and stir together to combine. Smooth out to a flat layer once again, and place directly under your preheated broiler. Allow the corn to cook for 15 minutes. Stir the corn and return to the broiler for another 5 minutes. When the corn is ready, it should be evenly toasted and charred. Set aside while the polenta cooks.

For the polenta: In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic clove and stir constantly, letting the garlic turn light golden brown. Add the wine and let bubble for just a bit, then pour in the vegetable stock. Let the stock come to a boil, then whisk in the polenta. Turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and allow the polenta to simmer while covered, 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir the polenta, cover once again, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and the polenta is tender.

Stir in the sour cream and the charred corn. Taste the polenta, and add salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to add a little extra stock or water to thin the polenta to your liking!

To serve: Spoon desired amount of polenta into a bowl or onto a plate. Top with a large scoop of the chilled tomato mixture. Sprinkle on some crumbled feta cheese, and it’s ready to serve!

To me, this dish is perfect as-is for a main dish. It’s warm and satisfying, but not at all heavy or too rich. The acidity of the tomatoes and the tangy feta work really well with the slightly sweet and creamy polenta. If you’re in a bind because it feels too early for you to be serving up hearty roasts and cheese-filled pasta dishes, try this polenta. It’s definitely great for warm weather with a side of pumpkin spice latte!

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