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Summer in September

20130904_BlogFreshPolentaOilPoachedTomato-127My good friend Keena was working in India for the last few months and just returned to Seattle, eager to experience as much Pacific Northwest summer as possible in September. I’m with her on this one: It just so happens that towards the end of this month, the farmers markets I’ve been doing will also come to an end, so things seem like they’re both simultaneously gearing up (hike! picnic! beach!) and wrapping up at the same time as I also feel a sense of wanting to cram in as much as I can before the days start getting noticeably shorter. And truly: there’s no better recipe to commemorate such efforts than these fresh corn grits with oil-poached summer tomatoes.

20130904_BlogFreshPolentaOilPoachedTomato-105I thought I’d be overjoyed to have a break from the farmers markets but with just a few weeks left, I’m feeling like I’ll really miss my regulars, my farmers market neighbors, the weekly trades, and the chance to spend some time outdoors. I did a big all-day Harvest Festival event yesterday and had some time to reflect on the season and how it’s been for Marge. What I realized standing there all day is that I don’t really have to work as hard at the events as I used to. Since Marge is a relatively new company here in Seattle, it took a lot of work at the beginning of the season to get people to try the granola and to recognize the brand. Now, for the most part, they come up to the table and know exactly what they want. And thank me for being there. Word is spreading — has spread. And I feel really lucky for all of it.
20130904_BlogFreshPolentaOilPoachedTomato-112On Friday, an older woman with stark white hair and a gauzy pink scarf came up to my table and browsed for a little while, reading the nutritional facts on the back of each package of granola and looking at our signage and displays. She noticed  a little press flyer and mentioned how absolutely wonderful it was that we were featured in so many magazines. Because I tend to be humble and shy about these things I told her that it was just luck, really. She looked at me and paused for what felt like ten full seconds, and then responded: well, the harder we work the more chance that luck will find us, don’t you think? I don’t know if I completely agree although I really want to. I want to believe the woman with the bold pink scarf. I want to tell myself that if you put in the time, it will all surely pay off big in the end.
20130904_BlogFreshPolentaOilPoachedTomato-125

Before bed, I’ve been reading Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit, and a perfectly appropriate line jumped off the page yesterday: “The more you are in the room working, experimenting, banging away at your objective, the more luck has a chance of biting you on the nose.” So maybe the older woman is right. And maybe I’m starting, slowly but surely, to see that coming true on a very small scale at the farmers markets: I get to just stand and greet people as they come up to the booth rather than actively engage them and work to sell them the product. And that feels lucky. Even on what seem like impossibly long days or days when I really miss really good health insurance or retirement benefits, there’s the possibility of going out to lunch in the middle of the day or leaving town early to drive to the mountains to see a friend who has proclaimed that summer must, for this one year, fit itself into the month of September. And we’re working on that. Working really hard at it. Wish us luck.  

A quick bookkeeping note: Marge Granola has been nominated for a Martha Stewart American Made Award! We’re doing pretty well, but we’ve still got a little catching up to do. Voting takes a matter of moments and you can vote six times per day (so if you’re like my family, you can return each day and continue voting — which would be wonderful); the contest ends this Friday the 13th. I’d so appreciate your support (tell a friend?) and vote if you have a moment. Thank you! Vote here.

A quick note on this recipe: First, it’s heaven. Make it tonight if you can. I ran across the idea for fresh corn grits in Food and Wine and bookmarked it right away, wondering why I hadn’t thought of such a genius invention (we eat a lot of polenta around here). I will say that I wondered half-way in why I was grating the corn cobs instead of just slicing off the kernels — but I will tell you it makes all the difference. In grating the corn you get a lot of the juices (and you use them) and you get finer bits of corn than you would if you simply sliced off the kernels. So while it seems a touch labor-intensive at the time, stick with it. When I tried my first bite of the grits, they were like nothing I’d ever tasted before: sweet as the summer sun, lightly herbed, bright with flavor. And to be honest, they tasted nothing like the polenta or grits we often make at home — which brought on the discussion: is this really more like creamed corn? What’s the true definition of polenta or grits? So in an effort to work a little less on this sunny Sunday morning, I’m going to leave those questions unanswered and get right to the recipe. Call it what you will, it’s late summer in a bowl and I think you’re going to like it as much as I did.

Fresh Corn Grits with Oil-Poached Tomatoes
Some people remove the skins from the tomatoes once they cool — I happen to like them and think it gives the dish a rustic quality. Once you eat every last one of the tomatoes, you’ll have pan of herbed, tomatoey olive oil left: don’t toss it! We’ve been using it in salad dressings, as a bread dip, or to drizzle over morning eggs. 

Serves: 4 as a small side

Adapted from: Food and Wine

For the tomatoes:
1 ¼ pound roma or plum tomatoes (about 6) halved, cored
1 head of garlic, cloves separated
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the fresh corn grits:
6 large ears of corn, shucked and coarsely grated on a box grater (about 2 1/4 cups kernels and juice)
½ cup whole milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
flaky salt (like Maldon), to top (optional)

Prepare the tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 300 F. Lay tomatoes, garlic, rosemary and salt in a heavy-bottomed baking dish. Pour olive over the tomatoes evenly and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft and skin is beginning to shrivel. Discard herbs and allow to cool slightly.

Make the polenta: In a saucepan, simmer the corn and juices with the milk over medium heat, stirring until thick, about 6-8 minutes. Add the salt and pepper; fold in chives, butter (if using) and Parmesan cheese.

To serve: Scoop the warm polenta into a small serving dish and spoon the soft, warm tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with a little flaky salt, if desired. Serve immediately. Save the herbed olive-oil to use in other recipes (salad dressings, drizzle over eggs or dip for crusty bread).

  1. Posted September 8, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Oh, my mouth is watering as I look at the wonderful bowl of deliciousness.

  2. Posted September 8, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    The Creative Habit is such an excellent book–I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying it. Congratulations on the growing notoriety of Marge and the Martha Stewart Award– I only wish I could have a consistent supply of your granola in Virginia! Enjoy squeezing summer into September :-)

  3. shila
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 11:35 am

    hi megan, thank you for this recipe–I’m hoping to savor more lazy and delicious summer meals before fall.

    And although grating corn to make polenta doesn’t sound lazy, it would make the most wonderful meal to savor for hours with a glass of wine on a gorgeous weekday evening.

    Thank you and congrats on Marge’s success!

  4. Posted September 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I made this for dinner tonight. Grating the corn is some (messy) work but it is so worth it. Thank you so much for inspiring a wonderful meal!

  5. megang
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Ileana: Hooray! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe. I agree on the grating of the corn … there was a part of me that wanted to abandon ship halfway through. But I think it does make all the difference in the end. ~Megan

  6. Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    That looks amazing! I love to cook tomatoes into a thick sauce and use that to top polenta, but I’ve never tried using fresh corn to make polenta/grits. Just… beautiful!

  7. Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    I’m off to vote for you a bazillion times (well, ok, 6 times per day) – congratulations on the nomination! This does look like a heavenly meal, and so perfect for these near-Fall days that still feel so much like Summer – until the sun dips below the horizon and there is a familiar chill in the air. I just love it all.

  8. Posted September 10, 2013 at 9:25 am

    oh goodness, this sounds excellent. funny, isn’t it, how things jump out at a person? (and not at others … HOW did i miss this?)

    and congratulations, and gooooo marge!!!! off to go vote, as often as allowed. and to pack in all the (late-) summer i can.

    xo,
    molly

  9. megang
    Posted September 13, 2013 at 7:15 am

    THANK YOU, Molly! Yes this recipe is pretty killer. The grating of the corn? Not so much, but a few readers have told me they had great luck cutting the cobs in half beforehand which I thought was pretty genius. Enjoy the weekend!

  10. Posted September 13, 2013 at 10:09 am

    It’s a complimentary dish that is just as exquisite and comforting. Love the idea of poached tomatoes — so summery :)

  11. Posted September 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Yummy!

  12. Becki in Portland
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I made this tonight for supper, and it was so so good!! Grating the corn was a bit of a palaver, but the resulting corn grits was one of the best things I’ve eaten all summer. Thanks for a simple killer recipe!

    I had some frozen corn kernels, so I experimented. Put them in the mini food processor and ground them up–they looked quite like the grated corn except there was no juice. These cooked grits were very tasty, it would be an acceptable substitute when fresh corn is unavailable.

  13. megang
    Posted September 25, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Oh awesome, Becki. Thanks for the note on the frozen corn kernels. Yes, I found grating the corn tedious too, but I think worth it in the end. And another reader commented that she’d been cutting the cobs in half which helped a lot too, so there’s that. Glad you enjoyed the recipe! ~Megan

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  1. By Eat Your Greens » Friday Links: September 20, 2013 on September 20, 2013 at 5:04 am

    […] Fresh Corn Grits with Oil-Poached Tomatoes – A Sweet Spoonful […]

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