We have a good-natured joke down here in the South about a man from “up North” who visits a diner in a small Southern town and is asked by the waitress, “would you like grits with that?” and the man says, “sure, I’ll try one.” :)
Grits are one of the signature foods of the South, along with cornbread, fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits.
I, like most Southern girls, love grits. They are simple to make, but there are definitely some things that are important to remember.
First, never buy instant grits. They are over-processed, and when cooked, are thin and nearly flavorless. They are an appalling substitute for even “quick” grits, which give you a fine result after cooking for only five minutes. Stone ground grits take 15 to 20 minutes to cook, and have wonderful taste and texture, but quick grits are what most people use; I always have some in my cabinet. I hope you’ll get some in yours, too, so you can make this recipe!
Secondly, as a rule, sugar doesn’t belong in the same bowl as grits. It’s perfectly wonderful to have sugar and some cream and butter in a bowl of cream of wheat, but grits are used quite exclusively as a savory side dish.
Now, I love cheese grits, grits with a pat of creamy salted butter and sprinkled with pepper, grits in a breakfast casserole, and, my dad’s favorite (which I love, too), a bowl of grits topped with a sunny-side-up egg, salted and peppered. All are so delicious!
(you might like this recipe: Tomato grits casserole)
But last night I wanted to use summer vegetables together with grits somehow. I had some of my favorites in mind: eggplant, tomatoes, and mushrooms. I didn’t want any meat this time, so this recipe is suitable for vegetarians as a main dish, but would be wonderful as a savory side dish alongside grilled chicken or whatever you like.
Here’s what I did.
Mama Steph’s Grits with Summer Vegetable Sauté
2/3 cup olive or canola oil
1 unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1″ dice
3 to 5 Roma tomatoes, chopped (or substitute one 14oz. can of diced tomatoes)
1 cup of sliced fresh button or baby bella mushrooms
2 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 TBS fresh oregano leaves
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 to 1/2 cup dry white wine, or vegetable stock
Fresh parmesan cheese, shaved
Place oil in a large skillet. Heat over medium heat.
When hot enough to cause a drop of water sizzle when dropped in, add the diced eggplant.
Sauté for about 15 minutes, until the eggplant is reduced by about half and nicely browned. (don’t allow to scorch; add a bit more oil if needed)
Add the tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste and oregano, stirring in.
Add the wine or broth, and then the sliced mushrooms.
Stir, adding a bit more broth if it seems too dry (don’t allow it to scorch).
Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stirring in well. Taste, and add more salt if you would like, being careful not to oversalt.
When the mushrooms have reduced and turned caramel in color, serve the sautéed vegetables over hot grits, and top with shaved parmesan cheese.
For the grits:
2 cups water
1 cup half & half
1 cup quick grits
1 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
Place water and half & half in a large saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil.
Quickly add salt and grits to the saucepan, stirring in briskly with a wire whisk.
Lower heat to low-medium; add red pepper flakes, and then cover.
Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful not to allow to scorch.
Remove from heat. Taste for saltiness; if needed, add a tad more.
In center of a shallow bowl, place a healthy serving of the grits (about 2/3 of a cup).
Top with a large spoonful of the sautéed vegetables, and then shave (using a vegetable peeler or the large horizontal blades on the side of your box grater) Parmesan cheese over the top of the beautiful dish.
Freshly ground pepper over the top is a lovely addition, as well.
Tip: if you have no grits on hand, you could substitute polenta, pasta, or even rice. The sauteed veggies would pair well with any of them.
When I ate this, my tongue was thrilled, my stomach filled with wholesome summer veggies, and my inner-Southern belle was well-pleased.
Please enjoy and serve to your family and friends, no matter where you live!
You might also like: smoked Gouda and cheddar grits casserole
and perhaps this on the side: Savory stuffed tomatoes
More information about grits and even more great recipes using grits can be found at LabelleCuisine! Check it out!
The Ten Commandments of Grits:
1. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits.
2. Thou shalt not eat Cream of Wheat and call it Grits; for this is blasphemy.
3. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors Grits.
4. Thou shalt only use Salt, Butter and Cheese as toppings for thy Grits.
5. Thou shalt not eat Instant Grits.
6. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits.
7. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits.
8. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits.
9. Thou shalt not put sugar on thy Grits either.
10. Thou shalt not put sugar or syrup on thy Grits.
(from the site Southernquotesandmore.com)
Copyright 2012 Stephanie Hill-Frazier. All rights reserved.