Butter on corn. Salt on corn. Maybe chili powder on corn. Gloriously sweet corn practically stands alone so long as summer keeps the crop coming.
Corn on corn is a preparation that I love almost as much as stripping husks from a silk-clad, milky moist ear. That’s right: Fresh kernels in polenta is a delightful textural deviation from on-the-cob servings. I serve polenta all year in all kinds of ways, but seeding it with sweet corn kernels takes its blank-canvas potential to the next level.
Highly versatile, polenta can be flavored with just about any type of cheese or dairy product. Luxurious mascarpone is a family favorite. When all else fails, we usually toss a Parmesan rind into the simmering pot.
But we skipped creamy enhancements this past weekend in deference to my sister-in-law’s exclusion of dairy from her diet. Griddling the cooled and cut polenta and serving it with a sweet and tangy tomato chutney imparted plenty of flavor. I could have simmered the polenta in homemade stock if we didn’t have the savor of smoked chicken to go with it.
Indeed, adjusting one’s recipes to accommodate guests’ nutritional requirements is well within reach. And for those who still wanted cheese, we just served it on the side. Had the polenta been soft, we could have passed around butter, sour cream or the small mozzarella balls cited in the following recipe.
This one can easily be made dairy-free, or even vegan, by substituting oil for butter to saute the onion, vegetable or mushroom stock for chicken and forgoing the cheese garnish. Instead, add savor with nutritional yeast, finely crumbled nori seaweed or smoked paprika, which lends another bright color.
Look for instant polenta in the imported foods aisle of large supermarkets, or order it online. Using regular polenta approximately doubles the cooking time.