Instead of rice, potatoes, or other starch dishes, try cornmeal polenta for a down-home side dish. Polenta is nourishing and tasty and goes well with a variety of main-course dishes. A staple of northern Italy, it may be baked, fried, or just served as a soft, bland mush. You can use the coarse grind of cornmeal labeled “polenta” if you wish, but I use regular cornmeal for equally savory results, as it cooks more quickly. In this dish, cheese, corn, and chilies are added, making it a substantial and exciting accompaniment to Mexican food when topped with salsa and sour cream.
Yield: Serves 6
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn, thawed and well drained
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup sour cream, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles, drained
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh Tomato Salsa (see recipe below) or good-quality purchased tomato salsa for serving
For the fresh tomato salsa (makes about 3 cups):
4 tomatoes, seeded, chopped, and drained
½ cup diced green bell pepper (optional)
1½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeno pepper, or 1 tablespoon diced canned chiles, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 small lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
To Make the Fresh Tomato Salsa:
In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients. Cover and let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend, then cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Drain, if necessary, before using. Homemade salsa is best eaten the same day as prepared.
To Make the Double Corn Polenta:
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, combine melted butter, eggs, cheese, corn, cornmeal, 1 cup sour cream, sugar, salt, and chiles and mix well. Place in a lightly sprayed or oiled 7½-by-11¾-inch glass baking dish.
Bake, uncovered, until firm, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake 5 minutes longer. Serve with salsa and additional sour cream.