This summer is my sixth in New York. When I moved here smack-dab in the middle of July, I lived on the fourth floor of a pre-war walk-up building near the East River. Window A/C units were new to me, as was walking home from the 6 train as opposed to driving home in a temperature-controlled car.
Before I moved here, I heard from New Yorkers about how miserable summers were. The phrase “concrete jungle” took on a new meaning for them in those sweltering months, as in we are literally surrounded by scorching asphalt at every turn. I thought, I’m from Texas. I can handle a little Northeastern “heat.” I was sorely mistaken. There are few things more brutal than a summer in this city. My only respite for those long weeks until it started to cool down were daily walks with my (equally miserable) dog along the river once the sun set. That, and the moment when the train tunnels past your station, and a cool gust of wind hits your whole body. Every year, I forget how amazing that feels. Come solstice, I welcome it, even though I know that it’s leaving a half-inch layer of bacteria and (not unlikely) Ebola on my skin. *Ladies, don’t forget to wash your Ebola off before bed!
I left Texas for several reasons, but one of those reasons was the heat. I hate summer. I’m an autumn all the way, in terms of both weather preference and coloring (I can’t tell you how good I look in hunter green.) However, there is one thing that almost makes the “swamp ass” and unrelenting hot garbage aroma bearable – summer produce. If you love food, you swoon for sour cherries. You wake up early to get to the farmers market for the first pick of the peaches. As national treasure Garrison Keillor once said, “sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.”
This recipe is inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi‘s baked polenta. His version, made with corn, feta, and eggs, has been making its way around the internet. Essentially, it is polenta for the lazy cook – one pot and no stirring necessary? If I could make it in an Instant Pot, I might break the internet. My version incorporates the best that summer has to offer – plump cherry tomatoes, sweet yellow corn (first from the farmers market this season!), and bright green zucchini – in addition to goat cheese, scallions, and a handful of fragrant fresh herbs. I used a mixture of basil, parsley, and dill, but feel free to throw in whatever you have on hand. Mint or cilantro would be delicious here. Serve this up with a simple salad lightly dressed with a zippy vinaigrette and you’ve got yourself an ideal summer dinner or brunch.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup coarse polenta (not quick-cooking)
- 1 cup corn kernels (from 1-2 ears)
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds (1 cup)
- 4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced (1/3 cup)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup packed chopped herbs, such as basil, dill, and parsley, plus whole leaves for serving
- 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt butter in a 12-inch deep-sided ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in milk, stock, and polenta. Stir in corn, zucchini, scallions, parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Bake 20 minutes; remove from oven and stir in tomatoes. Bake until polenta is tender and thickened, another 15 to 20 minutes; adjust seasoning, if needed. Stir in herbs and goat cheese. Serve sprinkled with more herbs and parmesan cheese.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 370-556