Yes, another vegetable recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, but this one has more to do with what is going on in our garden than anything. We have eggplant, lots and lots of eggplant. Why? That is very good question. Most years we get a few eggplant, but this year they are taking off. Zucchini and cukes are behind, tomatoes are also slow (even with the heat) but the eggplant are taking over half of a large bed. Gardening always surprises. At least as surprises go, this is of the “pleasant” variety.
So now we have all these eggplant and need a recipe. Carolyn simply said, “I bet YO has an eggplant recipe”. And, of course, he did. Even better, it combines eggplant with tomatoes and sweet summer corn in a “fresh” polenta dish. We don’t grow our own corn (some epic, EPIC, fails with corn in our past) but there is good local corn at the farmers market so we figured we would try out this dish, and we are glad we did.
This recipe is really two dishes. The first is a corn polenta where you cook fresh corn kernels, then process them and add a bunch of butter and feta cheese. You get something like mashed potatoes with the sweet flavor of good polenta but with a creamy, light(er) consistency. The sauce combines fried eggplant with tomatoes in a quick reduction that yields sweet rich flavors. These dishes are good in combination, but either would work on its own. We served the left over polenta with a bit of bacon and green onion and it was very good. As for the sauce, you could easily serve it with rice or pasta.
The only issue with this dish is that when you combine the polenta and the sauce, you get a very, very rich dish. A little goes a long way. The first few bites are a delight, but the butter, oil, cheese and starch catch up with you quickly. We served ourselves big bowls as a main dish and couldn’t finish them. Next time we serve this, and there will be a next time, we will serve small bowls as a side or appetizer so we get to enjoy those 3 or 4 perfect bites. So while YO did give us an eggplant recipe, we are still looking for a way to use them up….you may see some more eggplant recipes later this summer.
(Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty“)
Notes Before You Start:
- You can use most varieties of eggplant for this dish, just be sure you end up with about 2 cups of diced eggplant.
- You need to shave kernels off corn for this recipe. This is always messy work. We suggest you shave the corn over your largest sheet pan. It will keep most of the corn off the floor.
What You Get: A very rich dish that uses up some eggplant. A new way to serve corn.
What You Need: A food processor with a large bowl.
How Long? About 45 minutes, and 30 minutes active time. This dish is easy but requires some attention and multiple steps. Anytime dish, but if you had a bad day at work save this for the weekend.
(Serves 4 as a main dish 6-8 as a side)
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch dice
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- 7 tablespoons water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
- 6 ears corn
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 7 oz. feta cheese, crumbled or diced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the eggplant sauce, place a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. When the pan is hot add the oil and eggplant. Cook for 15 minutes or until brown on all sides. Then drain off as much oil from the pan as you can (the eggplant will soak up some oil). Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook one more minute. Add the tomatoes, water, salt, sugar and oregano. Cook for another 4-5 minutes until you get a thick, rich sauce. Set aside and keep warm.
- For the polenta, first shuck the corn and then shave the kernels from the corn over a vessel that will catch the kernels. You want 1 and 1/2 pounds of kernels. Then place the kernels in a medium saucepan and cover them with the water (add more water if needed). Bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes.
- When the kernels are cooked, transfer them with a slotted spoon to the food processor. Reserve the cooking liquid in a separate vessel. Process the corn for a few minutes or until the kernels fully break down into something resembling baby food. Add some cooking liquid if the mixture is to dry to process.
- Return the corn paste to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until you get a consistency like mashed potatoes. This will take 5 to 15 minutes depending on your corn mixture. When you get the consistency you like, fold in the butter, cheese, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve on its own or with the Eggplant Sauce.
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