Super Corny Polenta with Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Some of the best flavors of summer combine for a memorable dish.

Tomatoes and the sweetest corn imaginable are everywhere right now. Red tomatoes, green, purple, yellow, orange, striped and tie-dye too. All sizes, shapes, and flavors, and so many recipes to make! It was really hard to make my choice at the farmers market this week, because I wanted some of everything, and there’s only so many meals in the week. Yes, we’ve had tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Firm, not too big, and full of flavor

       I settled on some lovely heirloom striped green and red tomatoes that were firm and meaty. I had roasting in mind, one for each person so not too big, as well as a super corny polenta using the corn in as many ways as possible.

I knew the base for this dish would be polenta, dressed up with the flavor of the fresh corn. When I was a kid, we called it corn meal mush. Often, it was served as a porridge for breakfast, topped with maple syrup. When mom made it savory, she would make a large batch and pour the leftovers into a little square baking dish. The next day, it would firm up and she cut it into squares and fried them in bacon grease for breakfast.

Options have exploded

Our parents garden was pretty straight forward. Our tomatoes were simple and predictable: an ‘early’, a beefsteak, of course, because it is the show-off of the tomato world, cherry tomatoes, and for variety, a low-acid yellow tomato my mother loved.

Forty tomato plants!

       When I had my own family I branched out even more. I worked for a time for a local garden center, and our grower asked us all to trial different tomato plants so he could determine what was best to offer that no one else did. We all agreed, and then looked with amazement at the 40 plants each we all ended up growing. Needless to say, it was a year of lots of tomato sauce. We all had favorites, and a few I’ve noticed have become easier to find. My favorite paste tomato at the time was heirloom, open-pollinated Amish Paste, and I’ve seen that at many garden centers since.

Let’s celebrate with easy and delicious!

      I wanted to make something special for a recent dinner party, celebrating this wonderful season. The polenta in my mind had corn in every way, I even used the water in which the corn boiled since it has so much flavor. Never want to toss away flavor if I can help it.

Corn five ways

      I also needed the texture of the fresh corn kernels in the polenta, but not too many or I’d have more of a corn pudding. So I pureed most of the kernels and held back a cup to add at the last, and a bit for garnish. Thus, cornmeal, corn water, corn puree, whole kernels, and garnish. The result was a polenta with an explosion of corn flavor!

First, the cornmeal

      The cornmeal I used was from the Nitty Gritty Grain Company grown and ground right here in Charlotte, Vermont. The one I chose this time around was High Meadow Yellow, which was produced from organic dent corn.

       Nitty Gritty produces its cornmeal in small batches. The corn is allowed to dry on the stalk, and then the whole kernels are ground, which gives the cornmeal more nutrition and flavor. Most commercial cornmeal is de-germed to give it a longer shelf life, which reduces both nutrition and flavor.

Look for whole grain

       I recognize that this cornmeal is not distributed beyond New England, but you can find similar products elsewhere, including Bob’s Red Mill. Check your health food stores and co-ops and ask what they have available in your area. There are also some good whole-grain cornmeals available on-line, but look local first, and always buy organic when it comes to corn! Otherwise, your corn or corn meal was probably grown Round-up ready, so herbicides can be used to control weeds, and you don’t want that in your family’s dinner.

A seasonal delight

      This is an easy dish to make, quite inexpensive this time of year, full of seasonal flavor, and it will delight your family and guests. It’s gluten- and nut-free, can be made with no dairy, and is a lovely vegetarian entree. We served this with a salad and warm whole-grain bread from a local bakery. But you don’t need a crowd to have this on the menu. Make it festive, celebrate this time of year, even if it is just the two of you.

Super Corny Polenta with Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

         The polenta:

  • 6 large ears of corn
  • 1 cup medium grind cornmeal
  • 2 tbsp. butter or vegan butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, dairy or vegan

The roasted tomatoes:

  • 6 medium-sized tomatoes
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • ¼ cup Parmesan, grated, dairy or vegan
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Basil to garnish

      Prep the vegetables and start the polenta. Make a small slit in the bottom of each tomato. Combine two tablespoons of the olive oil, the garlic, and a tablespoon or so of balsamic. Drizzle over the tomatoes on a small baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

      Put the corn on to boil covered with water (you will use three cups of the water in your polenta). Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the corn to cool. Strain and set aside the water. You don’t want any cornsilk in your water.

      Remove the corn from the cobs and reserve a cup and a half. Put the rest of the kernels in the blender along with a half cup of the corn water and puree for two minutes, or until very smooth. Set this aside.

      To a medium saucepan, add three cups of corn water and bring back to a boil. Using a whisk, slowly add the cornmeal, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and season with salt and pepper. Keep whisking a few minutes to make sure you have no lumps, then switch to a wooden spoon and stir every few minutes so it doesn’t stick on the bottom of your pan. My Aunt Mary said to always stir it in a clockwise direction, so I do!
      As the polenta starts to thicken, add a cup and a quarter of the pureed corn, and adjust seasoning. Depending on your polenta, the cooking should take between a half hour and 40 minutes. If it starts to get really thick but the grains are still hard, add a bit more corn water to loosen, and at the end, if it need more creaminess, add a bit more corn puree. None of this is exact, it will depend on your cornmeal, so you will have to trust your instincts on this one. We all know what too thick looks like!

      Meanwhile, pop the tomatoes in the oven for 15 minutes, or until a very sharp knife tells you they are soft on the inside. Combine the capers and olives in a small dish and wait on the polenta. 

     Once ready, add one cup of the reserved kernels, the butter, and the Parmesan to the polenta and plate immediately onto a large platter. Gently arrange the tomatoes on top, and add the liquid from the baking pan to the olive/caper mixture, and drizzle over the tomatoes along with a bit more balsamic. Garnish with the rest of the corn kernels.

      If you are feeling festive, add a basil top to each tomato, and scatter some edible flowers about. My favorite is the spicy nasturtiums!

There probably won’t be any leftovers, but if there are, place them in a little square baking dish and cut them into squares the next morning. Delicious fried and topped with an egg!

© Copyright 2023– or current year, The New Vintage Kitchen. Dorothy Grover-Read. Unattributed use of this material is strictly prohibited. Reposting and links may be used, provided that credit is given to The New Vintage Kitchen, with  active link and direction to this original post.

The New Vintage Kitchen does not accept ads or payment for mention of products or businesses.

Supporter of:  Slow Food       Fair Trade USA       Northeast Organic Farmers Association     EcoWatch    Let’s Save Our Planet No Kid Hungry   Hunger Free Vermont Environmental Working Group World Central Kitchen Sustainable America

50 Comments Add yours

  1. Suzassippi says:

    Oh my goodness but this looks and sounds delicious! I can almost taste it.

    1. So much flavor Suz! Definitely a favorite here.

  2. brwbmm says:

    The difference between polenta and grits? About $3 a serving.
    My favorite way to eat polenta/grits is fried. Chilled polenta/grits can be cut in slices, then pan fried, grilled or baked. Still would be great with the tomatoes.

    1. Ha ha! You are so right!
      The second day frying is the best. I usually make extra just for that purpose!

    2. Julia says:

      I had a grits dish not that long ago and thought, if they called it polenta, they could’ve charged at lot more. Recently, I tried fried mush and discovered it was fried grits or polenta. It was so good, with such a bland name.

      1. I know, what a name! It does not sound appetizing. But that is the only name I knew it by when I was a kid. I didn’t have grits until my early 20s when we lived in Alabama. I just thought they were really rather pale mush!

  3. Looks beautiful and I love the ingredients you used.

    1. Thank you Jovina. The taste of the seasons!

  4. Ronit Penso says:

    This mouthwatering dish came right on time, as I’ve just got some beautiful fresh corn
    I often use fresh corn polenta instead of grits, as a bed for shrimp, but I just love this vegetarian version. I hope to try it soon. 🙂

    1. Thank you! Tomatoes are at their wonderful peak. I’m sure you will add your own special little twists to it Ronit!

  5. I love polenta, this looks amazing. Such perfect timing as our garden is propagated with tomatoes! And it so impressive looking. Thanks Dorothy, hugs, C

    1. Polenta is such a comforting food, whatever time of day you eat it!

  6. Chef Mimi says:

    That looks delicious! I’ll have to look for the Amish paste plants. Good to know!

    1. Part of the project was to record the weight of the fruits. One of the Amish past tomatoes was 12 ounces! Very meaty, few seeds. Delicious flesh.

  7. Rosie says:

    This is just what I needed. Comforting polenta but with glamour from the tomatoes – aren’t they just the supermodels of the veg world right now?!!

    1. Oh gosh Rosie, supermodels they are! One cannot look at all these beautiful fruits and not smile. It’s the best!

  8. Sounds delicious. My daughter gave me extra cherry and large tomatoes so I’m fully stocked and ready to use.

    1. We have wonderful daughters! Mine gave me some extras for my fruit bowl, as well as a large bunch of green, purple, and wax beans!

  9. What a way to celebrate late summer! Sounds oh so good, a perfect combination of flavors.

    1. Thanks Laurie! They were all perfect together, and such a delight to serve.

  10. Forestwood says:

    What a marvellous variety of tomatoes and the ones in the photos look spectacular. Home grown spray-free toms make the absolute best tomato sauce!

    1. Thank you! Tomato season is the best!!!

  11. Gail says:

    You’re making me hungry! And craving roasted tomatoes! 🔥🍅

    1. They were so good! I think I need to make them again!

      1. Gail says:

        That’s definitely a sign of successful planning! I still can’t get past those incredible chilled soups in shot glasses! 🧡🍃💜

      2. They are always a hit Gail, and lots of fun to dress up!

  12. Jenna says:

    What a gorgeous and healthy dish!

    1. Thank you Jenna! It is really good for you, and good for the soul too!

  13. terrie gura says:

    Don’t mind me, I just licked my computer screen. This sounds so amazing, so summery, so delicious! We have a producer at our farmers’ market who sells ground dent corn. I’ll be making a beeline to his tent next week! I found some of those same stripey tomatoes this past week. So pretty!

    1. The stripeys held up well in the roasting Terrie, and were so delicious and meaty. I’ve made this dish with cherry tomatoes too, and it was delicious!

  14. I didn’t know there were so many types of tomatoes. Amazing! The dish sounds yummy.

    1. Thank you Robbie! There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, probably more, and they are all unique!

  15. Gorgeous tomatoes and I love polenta!

    1. It’s the best tomato and corn time!

  16. Roasted heirloom tomatoes – yummy!

    1. Thanks! They really were good.

  17. Christy B says:

    Can you believe I’ve never had polenta? Sounds fantastic, Dorothy

    1. We’ll, I think you are long overdue!

  18. What a pretty platter! 😊

    1. Thank you so much! Time to eat!

      1. I told friends about your gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. The eye certainly does half the eating! 👍🔥🍅

      2. Ah thank you for sharing! The tomatoes are pretty awesome models!

  19. This looks absolutely delicious Dorothy!

    1. Thank you so much Diane!

  20. This is so colorful and looks delicious!

    1. Thank you! It was a feast for all, beginning with the eyes!

  21. nancyc says:

    I’m a big fan of roasted tomatoes, so this sounds like a great dish to me! 🙂

  22. Super corny! I love your sense of humour!!

    1. Thanks! Always looking for a chuckle!

Please leave your valued comment here...