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Remember that roasted red pepper salsa I made a while ago? I made it again recently for my mother and my aunt, pairing it with two other absolutely yummy summer favorites: creamy polenta with fresh corn and basil-mint pesto.

The incredible thing is that there is practically no oil involved in any of this. I made the polenta according to this recipe, with my own tweaks, and of course, there is only enough oil in pesto to help make a smooth paste. The three– the salsa, the pesto, the polenta– play off each other beautifully, three distinct sets of flavors that swirl gloriously together and yet maintain their identities. The ideal for globalization, wot?

Creamy Polenta, adapted from this.

Ingredients

Water, 8C
Cornmeal, 2C
Fresh corn kernels, about 1/2 C or 1C, as you like
Salt, to taste
Parmesan rind, optional
Spices: ground black pepper, smoked paprika, dried red chili flakes

Follow the recipe on Epicurious.

You can add, if you like, a Parmesan rind– it adds, apparently, umami, but without the guilt of actual Parmesan. Or you can just add actual Parmesan. Live a little.

Add the corn kernels in the beginning– and frozen kernels work just fine, too. The kernels add textural interest, and they are miniature, corn-y explosions in the mouth. I like that. I’m a corny sort of person. Ha.

Of the spices, add what you like, as much as you like. I add most of it in the beginning, to let the flavors penetrate, and I sprinkle a bit on top at the end. (it looks pretty, but also adds a bit of fresh flavor, and is a visual cue to the eater.)

This recipe yields a creamy (yet entirely cream-free) polenta. It’s yummy with a bit of sausage. It’s yummy in creamy form as well as chilled overnight in a brownie pan, and cut into squares and pan fried (or oven roasted) the next morning. And, of course, it’s a delight with roasted red pepper salsa and/or basil-mint pesto.

Basil-Mint Pesto

Ingredients

Basil, a big bunch
Mint, a small bunch
Garlic cloves, peeled
Pine nuts, a small handful… or more
Half a small lemon
Parmesan, if you want
Salt
Pepper

Pesto literally means anything made into a paste, but the most familiar form today combines basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon juice. Oh, and a bit of salt, of course, and maybe black pepper. I like the burst of brightness that mint brings, and I happened to have a lot on hand, so I added too. I didn’t have Parmesan (shocking, I know) but it was perfectly fine without.

Throw the lot into a food processor and make a paste of it. Or go at it with a knife or mezzaluna.

Adjust ingredients per your tastes. As a guideline: I used about a generous bunch of basil, perhaps 2.5 or 3 non-squished handfuls, and one similarly non-squished handful of mint leaves. I used three fat garlic cloves, a quarter cup of toasted pine nuts (all I had on hand), juice from half a smallish lemon, a couple of generous sprinkles of kosher salt and a decent bit of black pepper. Taste as you go and adjust. And you haven’t oversalted your food at least once, you haven’t actually discovered how much to salt it.

My apologies if this sounds very careless. It isn’t so much careless as it is carefree. The beauty of this meal is its freshness and its forgiving nature. So relax. Make. Eat.

And, of course: share.

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