August 3, 2010

Summer Food Fest - Corn

fried polenta crostini with porcini ragu

For most European countries, corn is not for human consumption, but rather considered "feed" for animals. When I see corn being grown in the fields around me in Tuscany, I know it is for animals and not sweet corn I adore eating grilled, slathered in butter with some chili powder like I eat it in Mexico on the streets.

Corn is one of the "New World" foods which was introduced along with chili peppers, potatoes, turkey, sugar, pumpkin and tomatoes after the discovery in 1492. Most of the ingredients were first considered to be poisonous or for decorative use. Who knows why Italy embraced the tomato and not corn?

My own personal opinion is that they didn't know what to do with it. In Mexico the corn used to make the masa for tortilla's in boiled first in lye to soften it which also then releases the vitamins.
The plain corn used to feed the poor caused pellagra. It is understandable why they would stop eating it.

The only corn I see often now in Italy, is canned corn which is used on salads and even pizza as a "new" ingredient. They are advertising a corn and bean canned salad now too. 

Although fresh corn is a really rare treat for me to find in some grocery stores, Italy adores cornmeal. 
Polenta in many forms is popular mostly in the north, but even here in Tuscany we often use it with wild boar.

Not only a winter food, summer recipes for polenta are fried polenta crostini topped with various spreads and sauces. 

Make your polenta and pour into a pan to cool.
Remove from the pan and slice into small squares.

Fry in very hot oil and salt to taste.

It is fabulous even on it's own, think polenta like french fries. It is sold by the friggittoria's as a street food snack. At La Zambra, a small fabulous truck-stop near my house I get these polenta fries with pancetta!

If you don't like frying, it can be brushed with olive oil and grilled or put under the broiler to get a crust. 

Corn meal flour is not only used for savory dishes, but also for sweets. Amor di Polenta and Zalleti cookies are probably two of my favorite recipes.

Chilled polenta is also used for a Tuscan lasagna, where we use slices of the polenta instead of pasta, layering ragu, bechamel sauce and grated parmesan cheese.

My husband favorite is polenta gnocchi- where the soft hot polenta is placed on serving dish in spoonfuls, which hitting the plate, firm up and form gnocchi. Then top with hot ragu and grated parmesan.

soft polenta "gnocchi" with ragu

My other favorite "corn" is popcorn, which I can find and of course have to Italianize by serving with olive oil, grated parmesan cheese and sea salt.

I will have to wait until winter in Mexico or a summer in the states to get my fresh corn fix, meanwhile, I will comfort myself with polenta!

Summer Food Fest is a celebration of what is in season and a cross-blogging event.
Stop by and leave comments and and links to your own recipes!
Spread the love!

Here are some great ideas from the other participants:

Nicole at Pinch My Salt: Creamed Corn with Bacon and Rosemary
Margaret at A Way to Garden: Vintage corn Americana slideshow, and no-frills creamed corn
The FN Dish: Creamed Corn-Off: Battle of the Southern Cooks
Alison at Food2: Freezing Corn  
Toby at Healthy Eats: Candied Corn, and 4 more easy recipes
Michelle at Cooking Channel: Browsing Corn Porn   
Jennifer of Gilded Fork: Corn: Sweet Versatility (history, uses & recipes from cocktails to cornbread)
 Chef Mark: Gettin' Corny! (Musings from childhood, tips & fresh-corn recipes)
Caron of SanDiegoFoodstuff: Chino Corn Risotto with Chanterelles and Burrata
Caroline at The Wright Recipes: Pickled Corn with Summer Onion and Basil

How to Participate in the Summer Food Fest
So now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting with our posts of Wednesday, July 28, for five Wednesdays, you can contribute in various ways, big or small.

Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:

Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.

The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. Yes, copy and paste them everywhere! That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.

Or think bigger: Publish entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2010 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt of
The 2010 Schedule:

* Wednesday, July 28: CUKES AND ZUKES. Read it here.
* Wednesday, August 4: CORN.
* Wednesday, August 11: HERBS-BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (any one or both/all, your choice).
* Wednesday, August 18: STONE FRUIT.
* Wednesday, August 25: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?

That’s how a Summer Fest works.