Red Flint Polenta

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Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve been missing till you taste it—or hear it. We’re glad for passionate preservationists like Michael Feinstein, who has cataloged the songs of the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and many others into the American Songbook. “It’s a preservation effort and it’s also a lighthearted and enjoyable history lesson,” says Feinstein. Without the Songbook, many arrangers and songwriters may have faded with popular memory.

The polenta in our west coast TakeHome cases this week is equivalent to a musicologist’s project. It’s made from Floriani Red Flint corn—an heirloom Italian Alps variety. To champion something special like an heirloom seed takes more than passion. The inspiration to grow it and produce polenta came to Bob Klein, the owner of Oliveto Restaurant in Oakland, CA. Klein got it from William Rubel, a food historian. The seed was passed along to Baia Nicchia to help assess the genetics of the corn. Baia Nicchia then made Floriani Red Flint Corn one of their nursery projects, honing it for color and taste.

Their heirloom corn is taken to be ground by Community Grains in Alameda, CA.

Whether you call it polenta or grits, it’s a nourishing meal in itself, or a side simply augmented with butter, made lavish with cream, or topped with vegetable ragout—polenta is a springboard for many a culinary melody.

Preparation: Recipe writer and chef Linda Corso adds that the Red Flint polenta is a finer grind than store-bought polenta. “The finer grind cooks up quickly (5–10 minutes), but the coarser outer pieces still require the longer cook time (20–25 minutes). This will not negatively impact the texture of the finer grind.” See her polenta recipe here.

Storage: This polenta should be refrigerated.

You keep coming back like a song
A song that keeps saying, remember
The sweet used-to-be
That was once you and me
Keeps coming back like an old melody
The perfume of roses in May
Returns to my room in December

–Irving Berlin

Comments (2)

  • anon

    Where and how can I buy some floriani red flint corn unground and whole. I like to grind it myself, for the sake of freshness, and use it to make bread. Thank you.

    Jun 21, 2011
  • anon
    Karla Milosevich

    Hi Dan, thanks for writing. We asked farmer Fred Hempel from Baia Nicchia Farm where you might be able to get the whole corn, and as far as he knows, Community Grains is the only one selling the corn - ground into polenta. There may be other producers, but he doesn't know about them. Here is Community Grains website in case you want to contact them for more information:

    Good luck! Let us know if find it.

    The FruitGuys

    Jun 21, 2011


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