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May 11, 2012 12:58 PM

Fresh corn and polenta replacements

Much to my dismay, I recently discovered that my toddler has a corn allergy. I've seen good suggestions on replacing corn products in baked goods and as a thickener, but I'd love suggestions on what to use to replace fresh corn in sautes and stir-fries where its caramelization provides flavor for sauces, and what to use when I'd normally choose to put meat or vegetables on a bed of polenta. Any good ideas?

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  1. How about couscous instead of polenta. If you want something creamier, go for rissotto.

    I've never stir-fried corn, so no ideas there...are you talking about the mini-corn-on-the cob stuff? Just curious. Can you tell us what ingredients you usually saute and stir-fry corn with? might help me to think of a substitute. I've never used caramelized corn to flavor a sauce, I'm curious about that too. (And dying to make a pun about caramel corn but it's just not coming to me...lucky for you).

    4 Replies
    1. re: gimlis1mum

      Hmm, those might work... I want something to go with the fattier cuts of pork.
      I have not yet gotten to try them (bought the cookbook after finding out about the allergy), but I'm looking at cooking my way through Fast, Fresh, and Green by Susie Middleton, and she uses corn in a couple of "quick braised" vegetable ragouts; a corn saute with chile and lime (probably not a substitute-friendly recipe!); a stir-fry of zucchini, corn, and peanuts; and a gratin of butternut squash, corn, and leeks. All of these use freshly cut off the cob kernels.

      1. re: mullingink

        Sounds like your corn substitution problem is specifically tied to this cookbook. Seems that Susie is using corn a number of novel ways. You may have to decide, on a recipe by recipe basis, what the purpose of the corn is (texture, flavor?), and whether it can be omitted without changing the character too much. In some cases green peas might provide a similar texture, or diced carrots might provide a similar sweetness.

        Sweet corn is not common outside the USA. There are some Chinese dishes that use corn (not just the baby ears), but I don't think they are 'stir frys'.

        1. re: mullingink

          Well, fattier cuts of pork makes me think of rice; maybe sticky rice? But the couscous might work anyway. (Thinking of lamb shanks and couscous, so the pork might work too).

          those veggie sautes sound good - I'll look for that cookbook later this summer when CSA season is in full swing & we get 8 ears of corn a week :-)

        2. You can make a "mush" out of semolina which would give you the same look, though a different taste, from cornmeal polenta.

          4 Replies
          1. re: escondido123

            Roman style gnocchi are a semolina polenta, chillled, cut into pieces, layered with cheese and baked.

            Before corn, Italians were making polenta from a variety of grains and flours, including chestnuts.

            1. re: paulj

              I know that. She was asking about a "bed" of polenta so I figured soft semolina mush might do the trick.

              1. re: escondido123

                My reply built on yours, but was aimed mostly at the OP.

              2. re: paulj

                See buckwheat polenta post above.

            2. In a cookbook I have I found a recipe for polenta made from buckwheat flour. I have never made this so cannot vouch for the taste or whether it works. Plus would never make it due to high fat content. Not sure if can be made without butter. I remember seeing recipes for polenta that use other grains (I think one was millet), corn only began to be used after 1492 before they used other grains/flour, whatever was cheaply available in that region.

              1 1/2 pints water
              1 scant T coarse sea salt
              1 cup buckwheat flour
              1 scant cup butter
              7 ounces fontina, aisago and/or fonatl cheese cut into slivers

              Bring water & salt to a boil. Sift in flour, stir with whisk. Add 1/2 cup butter. now cook like regular polenta for 40 minutes. ie stir frequently. makes a soft polenta. add cheese. cook few more minutes, then add rest of cheese.

              4 Replies
              1. re: kosherGlutenFree

                Buckwheat is one those 'grains' traditionally used for polenta. While using straight buckwheat is possible, I suspect a mix of corn and buckwheat is more common (e.g. 2/3 and 1/3). As with corn polenta (or grits) the amount of fat (butter and cheese) you use has more to do with flavor than requirements of the basic porridge.

                I made a partial buckwheat polenta once, but wasn't too impressed. I don't recall whether it was the flavor or the color (gray).

                There are lots of 'grains' that can used whole, coarse (grits) or fine, whether rice, oats, farro, wheat, quinoa, barley, etc.

                1. re: kosherGlutenFree

                  What cookbook please?

                  It's nice to give credit to the author when posting a recipe:)

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    even for a tradition dish?

                    I have a similar recipe in a cookbook of Venice (and NE) cooking by Bonechi publishers - except it is topped with fresh anchovies. It also does not specify the amount of cheese. The Italian name is 'polenta di grano saraceno'.

                    I've come across another ancient variation on polenta - farro puls


                    It's a coarse grind, similar to cracked wheat and cut oats. And more recently I bought a package of barley grits from Russia.

                  2. re: kosherGlutenFree

                    Sorry, I posted before I read through all the comments. Yes, buckwheat polenta is great.

                  3. you can use oatmeal in place of soft or firm polenta. it's delicious & incredibly versatile with savory flavors.

                    for the sautes & stir-fries, peas will contribute sweetness and a similar texture, and you can add some caramelized leek or sweet onion to enhance the flavor of the sauce.

                    1. How about chick peas and cauliflower ? Lentils maybe?