I was delighted to see the return of cornmeal in this week’s box. I’ve been dying to make polenta. When we received a bag or two of cornmeal earlier in the season, I spent lots of time making cornbread and corn muffins, and saved cornmeal to use for pan frying all that yummy okra. But I still had cornmeal left over.

One day, thank goodness, the word “polenta” popped into my head, and I did some research. While corn ground specifically for polenta is probably a little coarser than what we’re getting in our little brown bags, I discovered that our cornmeal made delicious polenta, and the polenta was a fabulous base for a number of recipes.

You can serve it freshly cooked as you would use mashed potatoes – a nice base for other savory flavors. If you have leftover polenta, let it cool and it will firm up. Cool the polenta on a rimmed baking sheet, spreading it out to make a thin layer. Once firm, you can cut it into any shape – dredge it in flour and Parmesan and pan sauté it to make little crispy bases for other savory flavors (again).

Our favorite use was to create “lasagna” made with polenta instead of noodles. I layered the pieces of polenta (just cooled, no sautéing) with ricotta, mozzarella, sautéed vegetables and marinara sauce, and then baked it like lasagna. Delicious. And it would work in lots of Mexican-style dishes since it’s similar in flavor to cooked masa harina.

1947 Tabasco Sauce Recipe

This week I discovered that a work colleague is a subscriber at one of Riverview’s other CSA pick-up locations. We chatted about the cayenne peppers in last week’s box, and agreed we’d like to have something to do with them beyond chopping them up and storing in the freezer for when you need a tablespoon or two of hot chiles for a recipe.

He and I talked about experimenting with Tabasco-type sauces. I found a great website, www.mexican-barbecue-recipes.com/tabasco-hot-sauce-recipes.html, with a bunch of ideas, and I liked this particular one, maybe because I’ve been working on a story that features recipes from the 1920s and 1940s.

Depending on how many peppers were in your box (that you haven’t already used), you may have to scale things up or down. I guess you could use any kind of vinegar you like, but white vinegar is probably what is meant here. I’ll be working on my sauce this weekend. Let us know if you decide to experiment, too.

Balsamic Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash

Finally, this is a recipe we ran in the AJC last year in a story about sweet potatoes. It will work perfectly well with just butternut squash – and it really is good.

This dish is pretty irresistible even for those who expect their sweet potatoes to be sweet. A little honey tips the scale slightly to the sweet side, but the natural sweetness of the butternut squash and sweet potatoes may be all you need.

These savory roasted vegetables combined with crisp arugula could be served as a salad-like first course, or as a side dish with the main meal. And it’s easy to halve or double the recipe, depending on the number of people you’re serving.

To make ahead of time, roast the sweet potatoes and squash a few hours or a day ahead and refrigerate up to 1 day. Heat roasted vegetables in a microwave in 2- to 3-minute intervals until just warmed through, then combine with arugula and dress with balsamic vinegar and olive oil just before serving.

Vegetable Lentil Soup

This recipe is extremely simple and everyone who’s eaten it has loved it. This recipe came from Lincoln Stevens who was the catering chef for the Woodruff Arts Center and served this recipe at the High Café. Adjust the herbs to suit your household’s preference. I’m not a big fan of rosemary, so I’d have more parsley. The leeks, shallots and garlic are all ways of adding onion flavor to the soup. You could substitute a white or yellow onion for the leeks and shallots and the soup would still be delicious. Leave out the butter, obviously, if you need a vegan dish. We’re running this recipe next month in the AJC.

Squash and Corn Tacos

Do you know how to roast peppers? I roast poblanos (and other large peppers) by just putting them on the gas burners on my cooktop. You want to brown the skins, so just leave them in the flames and turn them to get all sides blistered. Then drop the peppers into a paper bag, fold down the top and let the peppers steam. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove from the bag and remove the stem, seeds and skin. Easy! I do this periodically and store the roasted peppers in bags in the freezer to pull out as needed.

Summer Squash Pizza

This is basically a white pizza with squash. Thinly slicing the squash will help it crisp up in the oven. You could use red sauce and mozzarella if you prefer – it’s just another take on roasted squash.

Pizza can go together really quickly. Once you have some pizza dough, you should be able to assemble this one in about 10 minutes, and it bakes in just 5 minutes in a really hot oven.

Make your own dough (mix dough together, let it rest about 15 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients), or you can use one of the refrigerated or frozen doughs. I understand that you can buy pizza dough from a pizzeria, too; haven’t tried that yet, but it would be worth a phone call to see if your local favorite will sell you a ball or two.

If you don’t have roasted garlic on hand, just sauté a little minced garlic. Or … if you love garlic and don’t need the flavor “tamed” … just mix it in raw.

Raw Thai Spring Rolls with “Peanut” Sauce

And then there’s the arrival of that other green – collards. I was reminded that someone once demonstrated dolmades – grape leaf rolls – where collards stood in for the grape leaves. Makes perfect sense. And given the small bunches of collards we’re going to get right now, that idea might be just the way to use up the dozen or so leaves that are in our boxes.

I also ran into lots of raw food recipes using collard greens to wrap “spring rolls”. Here’s one from goneraw.com. Adjust the vegetables, the amounts and the sauce ingredients to suit your household. You can substitute peanut butter for the almond butter if you’re not a stickler for a raw food diet.