Every now and then, I abandon my urbane, sophisticated food columnist persona -- no snorting, please -- and channel my inner food kid.

The adult me relishes Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, asparagus and almost any vegetable. The adult me is an adventurous dim-sum diner and an enthusiastic sampler of world cuisines. But that inner food kid? She remembers pushing succotash around a plate, wondering why anyone would ruin perfectly good corn by cooking it with nasty lima beans. The kid held her nose while nibbling chicken liver. And hominy? See: succotash. Why would anyone mess with corn, which was best served on the cob with butter?

Until I tried a slow-cooker chicken posole recipe, I hadn't eaten hominy since I was in single digits and wily enough to hide those puffy little kernels in a napkin. So you could say I hadn't eaten hominy at all.

But I've come to love both yellow and white hominy. I find hominy a bit more tender than corn and a bit nuttier in flavor. Hominy is the name given to corn kernels that are cooked in an alkaline solution to remove the hulls. I've seen the flavor described as fresh, tender, sour and mineral-like. In other words, hominy is a bit hard to describe.

Even after making the chicken posole for a while, I hadn't thought to branch out and incorporate hominy into other dishes. So when the other hominy eater in the house brought home this cool-looking bag of dried hominy from Napa-based Rancho Gordo, I tucked it away in the pantry because I wasn't quite sure what to do with it.

Apparently, I should be doing more with both canned and dried hominy. Plates readers couldn't fulfill a recent reader request for a catfish hominy dish, but they offered other recipes and plenty of advice.

"I use hominy instead of macaroni in macaroni and cheese, add it to chili or use it instead of tortillas in things like enchilada casserole," Julie Dalrymple says. She finds Rancho Gordo's dried hominy "cooks up much nicer than canned stuff." (Rancho Gordo sells all manner of heritage beans, chiles and more at www.ranchogordo.com.)

Barbara Baksa, of Fremont, says you can make a version of polenta by pureeing hominy in a blender. "It comes out very reminiscent of polenta, but in a fraction of the cooking time and without all the stirring," she says. "Pour the contents of a can of hominy, including the water, into the blender and blend until smooth. You can then pour the blended hominy into a saucepan and warm it over medium heat and add butter or whatever seasonings you want."

She serves her hominy polenta with chicken sausages sauteed with peppers and onions, or with chicken breasts she pounds flat, then sautes and tops with salsa.

Kerry Moore loves hominy, so she adds it to tamale pie, chicken tortilla soup and chile verde, among other dishes. And good friend Steve Yvaska has made a hominy casserole for years.

"It's always a hit at potlucks or at a buffet featuring ham on the menu. It's ever so easy to prepare!" says Yvaska of the casserole, which includes hominy, onion, sour cream, cheese and diced green chiles.

I plan to put my dried hominy to use in the bean and vegetable posole recipe that accompanies this column. If you don't have dried hominy, try adding a couple of drained cans of white or yellow hominy when you add the squash and tomatoes.

Second helpings

Linda Koch's Bircher Muesli has quickly become a fixture in my house. I make a batch every two to three days, adding fruit and cinnamon and sometimes a sprinkle of pecans to individual servings. It makes a quick to-go breakfast in a disposable coffee cup for the reluctant breakfast-eaters in the house. While we might not have time for a bowl of hot oatmeal, we can all afford the few seconds it takes to dish out the muesli, with its mixture of oats, milk and yogurt, and add a little fruit.

Request line

  • Gloria Paulus and her friends were chatting about the casseroles they enjoyed growing up. "Someone said they always had tuna fish casserole on Friday, but they had not had that for years," she says. "Do you have a good and possibly updated version of that casserole?" If you can help Paulus with a modern take on tuna fish casserole, please share your recipe. She'd also enjoy other favorite updated casseroles.

    Send recipes and requests to Kim Boatman at HomePlates@bayareanewsgroup.com. Find recent Home Plates recipes online at www.mercurynews.com/home-plates.