The irony of grain free ..... and due credit

Polenta 'Bruschetta'

You have probably heard this rant before, even from me. About food being increasingly commoditized and 'corn' being the poster child of the industrialization of agriculture. Oddly though, corn, for all its versatility of use, processed or otherwise, and villifaction, is not the most traded food commodity. As a grain, wheat and soybean rank higher in volumes traded. Yet, perhaps it is same versatility, and omniscience of it in its various form in pretty much every processed food, that lends to the sorcery of it.

The irony here, as I have been finding out over the past week since I went on an elimination diet, is that corn has been the knight in shining armor in being a satisfying grain replacement.

When I recently found out that I am wheat allergic, I cut it out for the most part. But, I don't know exactly what I am allergic to. Is it the grain, the flour or only processed versions of it? I don't know. And, I suspect that it isn't the only food that troubles me.

One would automatically think to do a scientific test. Unfortunately, there is no single comprehensive allergy test that covers all the possible allergens. For example, I recently met someone who did the test because he was having reactions sometimes but did not know to what and the test came up negative. Only by a serendipitous allergic reaction, did he realize that he was allergic to sesame, a seed that is not normally tested for allergens. So, I figured the best thing to do, as with anything related to consumption of food, is to do it intuitively. The elimination diet was the way to go, for me.

Baking Polenta as flatbread

Instinctively, it has a scientific base of eliminating all possible and suspected allergens and bring the body back to feeling normal, the Control group. Then by introducing one item at a time individually, it is easy to identify the villian that causes issue and then work on eliminating it with confidence.

So, in my case, I have eliminated all grains, except oats, dairy, except culture yogurt. So, this means, not only am I gluten free but all dairy free for the most part. Let me start by saying that I feel awesome! At this point, after a week, I have no gluten cravings. I even pass by the flakiest croissants with not even a second glance. It is of course opportune that it is Summer and the bounty of vegetables keeps my thrilled about my meals and satisfied. I eat a lot of fish and most often, protein with huge helping of vegetables stays me really well.

However, there are times that I do miss something that a grain can offer. This is were corn comes in front, middle and back. I have always been a fan of polenta and I am now eating it in more ways than before. It is my staple porridge like meal. I am baking it into bread, and I am scoring the web for more inspirations.

Polenta Flatbread

Speaking on the subject of food inspirations, you know the thing is, as much as we, food bloggers, keep creating 'new' recipes, I feel, it is rarely entirely new. This is not something that as bloggers creating 'original' content, we acknowledge often. The reality is that sometime, somewhere in our countless hours of being plugged into the world of food, we come across a recipe that makes itself noticed and wedges itself into our sub-conscious. And, then at the opportune moment, it comes to the fore and gets 'originalised' with a little personalization or even a major overhaul. Nevertheless, the creative moment, I argue is not entirely unique to the current creator and that it is in someway always borrowed from either peer or history.

My recipe today is an entirely free standing original. But, truth be told, I would scarcely have been led to it, if not for

this post

by Emiko that I had read months ago and squirreled away for posterity. Last week, posterity became the present. Of course, I made it my own. I used almond milk, incorporated cheese and thyme into it for flavor and cooked it for far shorter time and baked for far longer than that recipe. Also, my crostata is of flavors suited for the warmer season in the Northern Hemisphere. But, really, she gets first credit and I thank her for the inspiration, especially, since this crostata was a super hit at the dinner I served it at! :)

Thyme and Cheese Polenta Flatbread as Yogurt and Tomato Bruschetta

1 cup coarse corn meal

1 cup almond milk (I use homemade)

1/2 cup water

4-5 sprigs of thyme

1/4 cup of grated cheese (gruyere or aged cheddar works best)

1/3 cup strained yogurt, such as Greek yogurt

2-3 tomatoes, depending on size, sliced

handful of basil

4 T olive oil (for polenta) + 3 T olive oil (for the yogurt) + more for drizzling

a good aged balsamic vinegar for drizzling

salt and pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bring the almond milk and water to a boil. Add the corn meal and season the mixture. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and it looks the consistency of thick porridge. It should be thick enough to hold shape but not crumbly or dry. Whisk in 4 tablespoons of olive oil.

Oil a 9x5 inch baking pan. Sprinkle half the thyme at the base. Spread the cooked polenta in an even layer and press in the remaining thyme on top.

Invert the prepared corn cake onto a baking sheet and sprinkle the cheese on top. Slice into desired shapes and bake for 30-35 minutes until crisp and browned on top.

Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and salt. The oil will loosed the yogurt, making it spreadable and adding flavor.

Spread each polenta flat bread slice generously with the savory yogurt. Top with tomato slices and basil.

Just before serving drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top.