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Summer Breakfast

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Breakfast polenta with fresh corn.


by Lauren Chattman

Shopping at a Water Mill farm stand yesterday, I noticed a sign advertising “French Breakfast Radishes.” The basket below was filled with oblong red-and-white radishes as attractive in June as a basket of peppermint candies would be in December. Seeing the words “breakfast” and “radishes” together made me wonder why I rarely use the fresh local vegetables I pick at Quail Hill or buy at Bette and Dale’s when preparing the most important meal of the day. I was determined to remedy this lapse within the next twelve hours. I filled up my shopping basket with zucchini, beets, corn, and, yes, radishes. On the way home, I brainstormed recipe ideas for summer mornings. Here is what I came up with:


*Zucchini Muffins: For breakfast, I’d make these with whole wheat pastry flour and lots of chopped pecans or hazelnuts. Leftovers could easily become dessert, when frosted with some sweetened mascarpone.


*Carrot Scones: Shredded carrots stirred into the dough would give my scones sweetness without a lot of added sugar. I’d add some rolled oats for wholesome flavor and texture, and a little chopped crystallized ginger for spice.


*Beet Cake: I’ve been looking for an excuse to make Nigel Slater’s beet and seed cake (the recipe is in his book, Tender). Now I have one: Sunday breakfast.


*Sliced Tomato, Honey, and Yogurt: The tomato is a fruit, after all, so I’d treat it as I would a peach, slicing it and topping it with honey and Greek yogurt.


*Radish Tartine: To make a simple open-face radish sandwich for breakfast, I’d split a piece of a baguette, spread some salted butter on each side, and then top with thinly sliced French Breakfast radishes.


I did a little research after I refrigerated my farm stand bounty, discovering that radishes are not, in fact, customarily eaten for breakfast in France. Never mind. No one in France drinks kale juice, either, and that hasn’t affected its popularity at Provisions or The Juicy Naam. I predict that radish sandwiches and other vegetable-centered breakfasts will be all the rage in and around Sag Harbor by the end of August.

An ear of corn called out to me from the refrigerator this morning. I removed the kernels and stirred them into some breakfast polenta sweetened with brown sugar and topped with a dollop of sour cream. So good! Even though I was eating alone (which I often do, since I get out of bed well before 6 while everyone else in this house sleeps in at least until 7), I made a full recipe, thinking that the leftovers might be put to good use later in the day. I spread the cooked polenta into the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan and refrigerated it until firm. At dinner time, I cut this into squares and browned the squares in a skillet with some melted butter. My pan-fried polenta was a perfect side dish for my grilled shrimp and squid last night. My one regret— I hadn’t made those zucchini cupcakes for dessert.


Breakfast Polenta with Fresh Corn

Serves 4


For the creamiest polenta, add a lot of water to your cornmeal, and cook it slowly. Constant stirring isn’t necessary, but frequent stirring is a good idea, to prevent sticking and to get a smooth result. If you find that your polenta is becoming stiff and dry before 30 minutes is up, stir in extra water, ¼ cup at a time, as necessary.


4 cups water, plus more if necessary

1 cup yellow cornmeal

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 1 large ear of corn)

Sour cream or plain yogurt

Brown sugar

1 ½ cups fresh blueberries (optional)
1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium nonstick pot (nonstick is essential here—polenta is a pain to clean up). Slowly pour in the cornmeal, whisking, until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the salt. Cover, turn the heat to low, and continue to cook at a bare simmer, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the polenta is smooth and thickened but not too stiff (it should be the consistency of runny yogurt, thick but not able to hold  its shape).

2. Stir in the corn kernels and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.

3. Spoon polenta into shallow bowls, top each bowl with a spoonful of sour cream or yogurt and a sprinkle of brown sugar. Scatter berries over bowls if desired. Serve immediately.