Yotam Ottolenghi's Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

By • July 31, 2012 • 69 Comments

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Author Notes: In its entirety, this is a recipe that works and is really, really good. But it's also full of ideas you can parcel out as you see fit -- namely: polenta doesn't have to be born out of dry goods. Fresh corn, cooked quickly, breaks down to a sweet soup in the food processor. Adapted slightly from Ottolenghi's Plenty (Chronicle Books, 2011).

Genius Recipes

Serves 4

Eggplant Sauce

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  1. Heat up the oil in a large saucepan and fry the eggplant on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until nicely brown. Drain off as much oil as you can and discard it -- the safest way to do this is to scoop out the eggplant to a plate using a slotted spoon, then pour off the oil into a bowl before added the eggplant back in. You can save the oil to fry lamb chops or eggs in tomorrow.
  2. Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir with the eggplant. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, salt, sugar and oregano and cook for a further 5 minutes to get a deep-flavored sauce. Set aside; warm it up when needed.

Polenta

  • 6 ears of corn
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter, diced
  • 7 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Remove the leaves and "silk" from each ear of corn, then chop off the pointed top and stalk. Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels -- either stand each ear upright on its base and shave downward, or lay each ear on its side on a cutting board to slice off the kernels. You want to have 1 1/4 pounds kernels.
  2. Place the kernels in a medium saucepan and barely cover them with the water. Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid.
  3. Process them for quite a few minutes, to break as much of the kernel case as possible. Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.
  4. Now return the corn paste to the pan with the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to mashed potato consistency. (Be aware that if you have a lot of liquid left in the pan, it can take a while to cook down the polenta, and it will sputter. Consider holding back some or all of the liquid. Alternately, if you like the consistency after processing, you can skip to step 5.)
  5. Fold in the butter, the feta, salt and some pepper and optionally cook for a further 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Jump to Comments (69)

Tags: corn, eggplant, polenta

Comments (69) Questions (4)

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about 1 month ago Marissa

Is it possible to use a sweet wine instead of a dry wine? I don't like dry wine and I want to buy a wine I'll drink after I use it. Maybe if I omit the sugar or add some sort of vinegar to balance the sweetness?

Wrong_apple

about 1 month ago sevenfaces

This dish as a whole is gorgeous but the fresh sweet corn polenta with feta and butter stirred through is my new favourite thing of all time. SO GOOD. I poured the corn broth out of the pot and used an immersion blender for a slightly less fiddly work flow, and only poured about a quarter back in. Thinking of what to do with the rest now!

Stringio

3 months ago Christina Scannuccio

HO-LY COW this was awesome. I had a pound of Japanese eggplant from the CSA, so I upped to about two cups of tomatoes and about a quarter-cup water. If the sauce gets a little dry while it sits, heat it up with another splash of wine. Also, if the feta comes in an 8-oz package, that extra little ounce in the polenta won't hurt anyone ;)

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3 months ago Allison

This recipe was amazing! I didn't measure the water when making the polenta. I just filled the pot to just cover the corn kernels. I used sweet summer corn from the farmers market and it was delicious! I also roasted the eggplant

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3 months ago honeyydukes

Made this for lunch today ~ the polenta recipe is a gem, and worth the time and effort.

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3 months ago sl(i)m

Has anyone tried freezing the sauce as a way of preserving a too-bountiful crop of eggplants?

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3 months ago Susan W

I froze two batches of Francis Lams ratatouille. It worked beautifully, so I am sure this sauce would freeze as well.

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4 months ago lilroseglow

I really wanted to try the fresh polenta, but weeknight schedule did not permit. BUT the eggplant sauce over dried polenta was fantastic and a wonderful weeknight alternative. My whole family enjoyed it, and were already asking me to make it again perhaps adding additional ingredients (suggestions ranged from onion to mushrooms to Italian sausage.) So this will become a regular for me, and eventually I will get around to incorporating the fresh polenta. Can't wait to try it that way!

Thanks for the recipe.

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4 months ago MarieH

I love this recipe but so much oil. Has anyone tried roasting the eggplant instead of frying?

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4 months ago Supriya

Yes! I actually made it tonight by roasting the eggplant. I had made it this way last year (see comments below) with extra veggies. Today, I just roasted the eggplant with some olive oil at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

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4 months ago Renee B

I cut the oil way back without hurting the results. I think I used only 1/4 cup. This is after making it two other times reducing oil a little bit more each time. Roasting the eggplant is a great idea too. I'll probably give that a try next time.

Allisonkave

4 months ago ladykave

I just made the polenta to serve with Alon Shya's whole roasted cauliflower recipe (a favorite from Food52), and man is it delicious!!! I didn't need to use the reserved liquid, the puree was plenty loose when I returned it to the pan. I cooked it down a bit, and instead of feta and butter (we mostly cook vegan food at home), I added some white miso and olive oil. Insanely good.

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4 months ago SCalabretta

This was absolutely delicious and, using dried polenta, very fast. I will definitely be using the eggplant sauce for pasta in the future. Wonderful recipe.

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5 months ago Erica

Is this possible with frozen corn kernels?

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5 months ago Renee B

Yes. I've made it every time with Trader Joe's Sweet Organic frozen corn. Works beautifully. I use 1 1/4 bag. I love it and the meal was a huge hit when I hosted book club.

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5 months ago Yazoolulu

I made this tonight and it was incredible. The only substitution I made was using red and white balsamic vinegar in place of the wine. The whole family loved it and there isn't a bit leftover.

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5 months ago Marsha Gainey

I made the sauce recently but not the polenta. I topped traditional polenta with the sauce, which was delish! And pretty fast to make. The only thing I changed was that the finished sauce was very undersalted; I ended up adding 1/2 to 3/4 t. salt to my sauce. BTW, I made my polenta in my slow cooker using America's Test Kitchen's recipe from volume 1 of its two slow cooker cook books, and it, too, was delish with the added plus of no stirring (and stirring . . . and stirring . . .).

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10 months ago Gilda Barco-Pritchard

For tomorrow i will be serving the eggplant recipe on the cover of his book Plenty, and this one will be on my next week menus!! Can't wait, YUMMY!!

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11 months ago Renee B

Oh yum! I made this tonight for book club and it was a big hit. Who knew polenta was so easy and delicious. Confession, I used frozen sweet organic corn from Trader Joe's.

Ra_chef_4_068

over 1 year ago Reneesworld

This was divine! I did not use that much Feta: just about one ounce or so for two of us. The eggplant tomato sauce is spectacular.

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over 1 year ago Donna

I made a vegan version of the polenta by using dairy free margarine and replacing feta with 1tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (for the cheesy flavour). Yum loved it and recommending the above recipe to friends and family.

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over 1 year ago fhp

I've been making this fresh corn polenta for a couple of years now and everyone loves it. Last night we had it with platters of Johnny Cakes, Bacon and fresh Tomatoes. Summer!!!

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over 1 year ago Lynn Antone

Wondering if this is allowed to sit will it become thick enough to slice???

Stringio

over 1 year ago Lisa Wehr

Would it be possible to cook the ears whole and then cut off the kernels and process them? I know it wouldn't come out the same weight, but it seems easier to do than than cook the kernels and fish them out with a slotted spoon.

Miglore

over 1 year ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I've never tried it, but it would probably work -- you may need to add splashes of the cooking liquid while processing. Alternately, rather than fishing out the kernels, you can also just strain the kernels over a bowl, reserving the broth in case you want to add any back in.

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over 1 year ago crabby Q

Made this last night. Delish!! We licked our plates clean. I used 1.5 cups of water to cook the kernels and added the whole amount back, but prob could have used less, as it took awhile to cook down. And used half the butter. Was still very rich and yummy.

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over 1 year ago rags

I made this twice last week with fresh vegetables from my garden. As long as fresh corn is available, I will never again use dried polenta. This had such a wonderful, sweet corn flavor! The second time I made it I topped it with crispy fried scallions, toasted almond pieces and some lime zest. I then drizzled a small amount of sriracha marinade I had made for chicken skewers over the polenta. It was a delicious confluence of east meets mediterranean. The possibilities are endless.

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over 1 year ago Katie Athaide

made this the other day was amazing!!!

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over 1 year ago za'atar

Normally I think of polenta with a tomato sauce as being a heavy, winter-time dish. It was nice to see this fresh, summer version highlighting seasonal produce. I will definitely be returning to this recipe throughout the summer.

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over 1 year ago iflamm

I made this today with frozen corn out of necessity - it worked! Instead of the eggplant sauce, I served Food 52's Swearing Like A Sailor Stuffed Eggplant over the polenta. Excellent!

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about 2 years ago cookbookchick

I made this yesterday with small ears of corn that were very sweet and not starchy, so based on comments posted here, I cut the water to 1 1/2 cups. Worked perfectly! I also weighed the corn as I stripped the ears to get the required amount. We ate the leftover ears for dinner. Tonight I will finish off the polenta with the butter and cheese, reheat the eggplant sauce I also made yesterday, and we will feast.

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over 2 years ago Nuala

Could I prep the polenta to step 3 ahead of time and pick it up at step 4 after my guests arrive? I worry about the polenta sitting for a while affecting the texture, but if that's not the case it would be wonderful to do as much in advance as possible!

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Yes, you could definitely do that, although cooking down the puree in step 4 can be the most time-consuming part (depending on how much liquid you add back). I think you'd also be fine doing step 4 in advance. You may just need to add in a bit more liquid as you reheat, and adjust the seasoning to taste. Hope you like it!

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over 2 years ago EmmaC

This recipe is so delicious! I substituted eggplant with sauteed shitake mushrooms. Instead of creating the sauce, I added a bit of tomato paste to the corn polenta. I also did not have to use any cooking liquid in the polenta reduction. It turned out delicious! Definitely going in my "go-to dish" list.

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over 2 years ago Mjhanlon

This is a fabulous summer side especially with very fresh sweet corn. I sliced the eggplant lengthwise and brushed generously with EV olive oil and baked at 450 for about 25 minutes and then diced and followed rest of the recipe.

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over 2 years ago mommysinthekitchen

5 ears of corn yielded less than a pound. nevertheless i followed suggestions from comments and added only a tad of the cornwater back after processing. the consistency was perfect, but i actually found the polenta to be too sweet! anyone else?

Cutandcolor

over 2 years ago pixielated

I had 3 ears of corn and a 1/2 cup of dried polenta in my pantry, so I decided to use this recipe as a basis for using them both up. First, I prepared the dried polenta with a couple cups of water, stirring for about an hour, like my grandma used to do. I poured that polenta into a bowl, and used the same pot to prepare the fresh corn with these instructions. After pureeing the cooked corn, I simply mixed it together with the prepared polenta, added my salt, butter and cheese, and voila! Super creamy, super sweet. Thanks for the idea to use fresh! I think I'll always mix these two from now on...

Me_milkshake

over 2 years ago lschmoyer

This was a terrific way to use super fresh veggies. My corn was very fresh and juicy, so I didn't add any water back before cooking to thicken. I can't wait to make this again!
Like another user, my eggplant soaked up more oil than I expected. Is there a trick or technique for preventing eggplant from absorbing so much oil? Perhaps warming the oil to a higher temperature?

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over 1 year ago Cathy Gordon

You can coat it with egg white.

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over 2 years ago sparklingsapphire

I found that some of the amounts were way off in the recipe. I weighed my corn kernels and had more like 2 1/2 lbs. from 6 ears, not 1 1/4. My ears were on the large side, but I can't imagine how small they'd have to be to yield only 1 1/4 lbs. Secondly, since I had so much corn, I increased the water to ~4 cups. After pureeing, my corn was so liquidy that I returned it to the pot without any of the cooking liquid and it took a full HOUR of simmering to thicken to the point of being edible.

Up until the point when it took quadruple the time expected to cook the polenta, everything else came to gether quickly and easily. I decreased both the butter and cheese a bit, and it turned out delicious, and was great and unique way to use fresh summer corn, eggplant, and tomatoes. I'll definitely make it again, although with some major adjustments next time.

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over 2 years ago JORJ

I had a similar problem when I tried to thicken my corn... I ended up giving up and just deciding it was corn soup... pretty good anyway! Then I made pasta and tossed that with the topping instead. I wonder if it is about the starch content -- the corn I had was super sweet and I wonder if the corn they use in this is starchier...

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thanks for your comments -- I just added a note to the recipe about this step, so that hopefully more people can avoid the extended stirring phase!

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over 2 years ago Cassi Shindelbower

Polenta...Eggplant... two of my favorite things! What a delicious, fresh recipe. I used half the butter, and half the cheese in the polenta- but added just a pinch of red chili flakes and a couple of cloves of garlic to the Eggplant sauce. MMM

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over 2 years ago rederin

This was delicious. Really wonderful. I loved the polenta, and the sauce. I do have to say the recommended water amount was way too much, but I didn't weigh the kernels, so that could have been the problem. I just let it boil down a bit, and it was fine, just took longer than expected. Next time I would use maybe half the cheese, but that is a personal preference. The dish is very rich, but the upside is that it made us eat smaller portions! I served it with a link of spicy Italian sausage, and would have been just as happy without that. It definitely stands on its own.

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over 2 years ago avimom

Made the eggplant sauce last week and froze until last night. I served it over rigatoni for last-minute guests and it was a big hit. I used fresh tomatoes that weren't too sweet, so I added a touch more sugar. The sauce froze very well. I will be making another batch this week if more eggplants come my way.

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over 2 years ago niki5959

I made this last night and it was absolutely delicious! I'll definitely make this again! I had no idea that you could make polenta from fresh corn. Thanks for such a great recipe!

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over 2 years ago Jellly

I would love to try this, but I am not a big fan of feta. Any suggestions for a substitute? Would salata ricotta work?

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

That sounds great!

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over 1 year ago Cathy Gordon

I used goat cheese because that is all I had. used about 3 oz. was delicious.

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over 2 years ago MarieH

This was so delicious I am making it again tonight!

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over 2 years ago BiCoastalCook

We ate this with friends last night. SO DELICIOUS! I could eat that fresh corn polenta for dessert. Hmm, I do have some leftovers...maybe I will.

Imag0276

over 2 years ago Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice

I'm making this tonight can't wait!

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over 2 years ago Betsy Schoettlin

I made this last night and it blew my friend's mind. Pure, delectable garden goodness. The flavor of the polenta is so fresh and sweet that it's almost overwhelming. The eggplant sauce anchors it and brings it home. Brilliant.

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over 2 years ago Monique pancake

After Betsy made this for me last night I made it for my husband tonight. I used less butter and less cheese but added some parmasean cheese to the polenta. Fabulous! He loved it!

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over 2 years ago Supriya

Delicious! I made this for friends last night (I had planned on making something entirely different until I saw this recipe at 4 p.m.!) and they LOVED it. A little too unhealthy for me to make on a regular basis, but it's perfect for dinner parties. For an evening at home, I'd consider making the polenta without so much butter and cheese and top it with a simple saute of whatever veggies I have at home.

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over 2 years ago Supriya

I made this again, but this time made a healthier variation, as I didn't want to fry anything. I basically made a ratatouille of sorts--onion, tomato, eggplant, chard, leek and fennel--and cooked it with a bit of white wine until it broke down into something that resembled the consistency of the original. I also left out most of the feta from the original, and added only 1 tablespoon on butter to the polenta. It's definitely less decadent than the original, but for us, it was a lighter weekday dish. Still delicious, though!

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over 1 year ago Supriya

I made it yet again--and differently again! As someone else suggested, I roasted the eggplant instead of frying, and also used a package of cremini mushrooms and a green pepper as I only had a small eggplant. Then I followed the rest of the recipe, though I added only 1.5 tbsp of butter and subbed in goat cheese. Yum!

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

kitchenwlittleb -- I haven't tried this with an immersion blender, but it would probably work pretty well. Like you said, I'm guessing it would just leave some chunks, but that could be good!

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over 2 years ago kristijo

I just made this for dinner and it was fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

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over 2 years ago avimom

Lots of eggplant here, too. Gonna make my freezer happy tonight!

Stringio

over 2 years ago Betsey

I just made this last week and we absolutely swooned over the polenta. Had an abundance of green beans and topped polenta with braised green beans in place of eggplant. Divine. Granny G, I freeze eggplant sauce and it tastes better for the rest.

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over 2 years ago Granny G

Thank you!

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over 2 years ago Mrs. M

You can definitely freeze the eggplant, I make caponata in large amounts and it freezes beautifully!

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over 2 years ago Granny G

Thank you so much. I know what I am doing this afternoon!

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over 2 years ago Granny G

Could you make the eggplant sauce ahead of time and freeze? I have an over abundance of eggplant, from the garden, and this looks REALLY good!

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over 2 years ago (]Celia[)

I have some great caramelized corn kernels I sliced off corn we grilled, but not enough for this recipe. However, I also have a tube of premade polenta. How can I substitute?

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

(]Celia[) (cool user name, by the way!) -- I don't think I would try to combine those two in the food processor -- you'd probably just end up with a gooey paste and lose the pure corn flavor. But you could try a mini version of this recipe by simply pureeing the caramelized corn kernels with a little water.

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over 2 years ago (]Celia[)

Thanks Kristen! I wound up going for it, but I used an immersion blender and didn't blend very much after I'd added the grilled corn. It worked well, so I thought I'd share in case anyone else finds themselves in a similar situation. I love the texture imparted by the corn kernels and the little chunks of feta!

Cody_and_me

over 2 years ago kitchenwlittleb

For the polenta, could you use an immersion blender with the corn in the cooking liquid? I know that this would mean a chunkier polenta, but would it turn too much into mush?