Driving home from Montana last week, I marveled at how my mind shifts from summer to fall as soon as September hits. I had just left a little farm where tomatoes, corn, basil and summer squash were coming into their own. Summer produce, at least, is very much not over.
I had been dreaming about cozy autumnal things — apples and winter squash, baked and spicy and rich — but realized that early September is too soon to put summer produce to rest. And that’s where these stuffed peppers come into play. They take the best of late summer and cozy it up with some creamy polenta and the wonderful warmth that comes with roasting vegetables and starches together. Topped with a bright, salad-like mixture of cherry tomatoes, feta, fresh herbs and olive oil, they wholeheartedly embrace the transition from one season to another.
Polenta Stuffed Peppers
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup fresh corn
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped thyme
4 large sweet peppers (or about 4 medium and 6 small sweet peppers of your choosing, as done here)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Fresh basil leaves, torn
Fresh oregano leaves, torn
Coarsely cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
First, make the polenta. Combine the cornmeal with two cups water in a small pot. Cook over medium low heat until water is absorbed and polenta is creamy, about 15 minutes. Whisk frequently to prevent the polenta from burning.
While polenta is cooking, slice peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membrane. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes to soften while polenta cooks.
Remove polenta from heat. Add the corn, Parmesan cheese, thyme and salt and pepper as desired, and stir to combine.
Remove peppers from oven, and give them a couple minutes to cool to the touch. Using a spoon, fill each pepper half with polenta.
Return peppers to oven and bake for another 12-14 minutes.
While the peppers bake, combine the tomatoes with Feta, basil, oregano, a generous glug of olive oil and enough salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until ready.
Remove peppers from oven. Let cool for a few minutes. Top each pepper with a generous spoonful of the tomato feta mixture. Enjoy!
All photos by Kimberley Hasselbrink
Kimberley Hasselbrink is a food photographer and blogger based in San Francisco. She is the author of the blog The Year in Food, which is framed around a monthly seasonal food guide. Kimberley enjoys unusual produce, strong coffee, road trips and summer nights.