True Grit(s)

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Stone ground grits cooked with cheddar and smoked gouda cheeses, smokey collard greens, and Swiss chard sauteed with roasted tomatoes.

Cheesy Grits and Greens The Wimpy Vegetarian

My mom was a southern girl reluctantly transplanted into northern soils as a young bride. She adjusted to her new home, but she missed the hot, sunny days of her youth, and her extended family. One of the ways she kept her southern roots alive was through her childhood comfort food, which often showed up on my plate.

I was fairly adventurous growing up, but try as I might, I could never sidle up to grits. All we had available in our small town were instant grits, which looked unappealingly watery and lumpy as I moved them around my plate, in the desperate hope that dispersion would be mistaken for consumption. Inexplicably (to me), both of my parents just loved those grits.

Cheesy Grits and Greens The Wimpy Vegetarian

Fast-forward to last December, and an unexpected gift of stone ground grits from North Carolina. After briefly considering re-gifting them, I decided to give them a chance. After all, they were the real deal, and probably more like the ones my parents grew up with. I began to experiment with adding cheeses, herbs and milk, thinking back to my early grit years. It suddenly struck me that my most powerful food memories draw me completely into moments connected to a place, a time, and a feeling; the flavor of the food was somewhat secondary. I didn’t love grits as a child, but as I sat over my meal of cheesy, creamy grits, I realized they’d become a comfort food for me too, filled with memories of teasing laughter as my parents observed the wild disarray of grits scattered all over my plate.


Cheesy Grits and Smokey Greens Casserole

Serves: 2 - 4

Grits and greens are perfect foils for each other, with the creaminess of grits in perfect balance with the bitterness of greens. For this dish I used a combination of collard greens and Swiss chard, but kale and even mustard greens would work equally well. The greens are sautéed with onions, garlic, and smokey, warming spices that marry well with the smoked gouda in the grits. Roasted cherry tomatoes join the party in the skillet, and it all simmers in a little vegetable broth until the greens are tender. I added some crispy fried Andouille sausage to the dish to satisfy my husband, the Carnivore Maximus, but you could leave it out with losing any of the flavor punch this dish packs.
Smokey Greens:
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Andouille sausages, precooked (about 1 cup when sliced)
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ teaspoon smoky paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried pepper flakes
  • 12 cups chopped greens (I used collards and Swiss chard)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Cheesy Grits:
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ½ cup stone ground grits (not instant!)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese, well-packed
  • ¼ cup coarsely grated smoked gouda cheese, well-packed
  • dash hot sauce, to taste
  • pinch salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the cherry tomatoes in enough olive oil to coat them, lightly salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Rinse the greens well, and slice into thin slivers. I removed and discarded the stems of the collards, but kept the Swiss chard stems intact. Dry and set aside.
  3. Slice the sausages into thin rounds. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté the sausage until slightly crispy. Set aside the sausage.
  4. In the fat and oil left in the skillet, sauté the onion until soft. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the roasted tomatoes and spices, and sauté another minute. Add the greens and toss well in the pan with tongs so they are completely coated with the tomato-onion mixture. Add additional olive oil if needed. Continue to sauté for 5 – 10 minutes until the greens are significantly softened and limp.
  5. Add the broth and salt, stir, and cover the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the greens are tender. Add half of the crispy sausage. Correct for seasoning. Keep warm.
  6. Make the grits by bringing the milk and broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the grits and baking soda, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes, continuing to stir so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add the butter, cheeses, and hot sauce, stirring until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Spoon the greens into a casserole dish, topping them with the grits. Chop up the remaining crispy sausage rounds, and sprinkle on top of the casseroles.
  9. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 350°F oven.
1. Makes two large single-serving casseroles. 2. Baking soda facilitates a faster and less worrisome cooking process of the grits due to its alkalinity. If eliminated, add 10 additional minutes to the cooking time. 3. This casserole can be made ahead, and stored in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and bake for 20 minutes to completely rewarm.

This month is #Greenslove for the Love Blog Hop I frequently join. Check out my co-hosts this month and see what everyone’s cooking. You can add your own greens dish you post the month of March by using the linky tool down below!

ASTIG Vegan ~ Richgail ~  @astigvegan
Bon a croquer ~ Valerie ~ @Valouth
Cheap Ethnic Eatz ~ Evelyne ~ @cethniceatz
Easily Good Eats ~ Three Cookies
Georgiecakes ~ Georgie ~ @georgiecakes
Oh Cake ~ Jessica ~ @jesshose



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    • says

      Exactly! As your fellow yankee, I just thought my parents were nuts. And if I hadn’t gotten the stone ground variety from someone in North Carolina (in FOOD52’s secret santa last Christmas) who swore these were his favorites, I would NEVER have made them. Now, I see them as part of a regular rotation.

  1. Myles says

    Don’t often comment on my wife’s recipes, but this time I felt compelled to weigh in. I am not a fan of grits (unless they are DROWNED in butter), nor do I jump up and down over collards or swiss chard; but I have to say this meal had me standing on my seat clapping. Being a carnivore, I would have liked a tad more sausage, but really didn’t miss it. I enjoyed eating this concoction straight out of the casserole, and would recommend serving it that way to guests or family. Collards and grits, who would have thought?

  2. Laurie Dupree says

    Susan, Funny, I don’t ever remember having your Mom serve me grits at your house as a child…..I may have given her the same reaction, especially if they were instant ~ those things should be BANNED! Funny thing though~ when I moved down to Atlanta and was first introduced to them at the old C&S Bank cafeteria, I wanted to put brown sugar and cream on them like the northern Cream of Wheat that we DID eat as children up north (along with Oatmeal, Scrappel or my Mom’s favorite, Pan fried Corn Meal Mush, which was from her upbringing in Southern Indiana!) Then someone introduced me to Cheese with Grits ~ I was officially branded a Damn Yankee as I stayed AND ate Grits!! :)) Still love them to this day and can’t wait to try your recipe ~ especially with the Gouda! YUM, YUM!!

    • says

      I think mom was smart enough not to foist them on anyone other than the immediate family, especially the instant ones she got at Ferri’s (remember that store?). Soooo sorry you had to miss out :-). Pan Fried Corn Meal Mush? Now that sounds interesting. I love how different parts of the country had mushy breakfast foods that were similar but oh so different.

  3. says

    Thanks so much Suzanne! Grits are definitely not all created equal, I can attest to that :-)I LOVED “My Cousin Vinny” – it’s still one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. I’ll have to watch it again to catch the grits scene! It’s been way too long since I’ve seen it.

  4. says

    You’re absolutely right!They’re the ultimate comfort meal and with those greens and sausages ,they’re even more delicious!Sending you some #Greenslove :)

  5. says

    What a fabulous recipe! I make something similar, but with more modest seasoning on the greens. I love you’re bold flavors, especially the use of smoked paprika! Will definitely be giving that a try! Thanks for sharing and co-hosting this hop!

  6. says

    Gosh – food is so totally like that, isn’t it? I can eat stuff I ate as a kid, and even if I didn’t like it, it reminded me of childhood, and somehow managed to taste better. Wow. I need to make these for my grits lovin’ mom. Thanks for the recipe!

    • says

      Totally. It’s kind of amazing, really. I had always thought it was all about some fabulous flavors. I loved these grits I made, but that’s not at all what made it a comfort food. It was the food memories of Saturday morning breakfasts when I was a kid :-) Who’d have guessed?

  7. says

    I lived in North Carolina briefly during culinary school. Late nights after working until 2am at the restaurant I’d come home and make grits and fried eggs. Breaking the yolk into my heavily peppered grits was late-night heaven. I love your story and I love the way you’ve added great flavors through the gouda and sausage to make the relationship between grits and greens even stronger. Great post!

  8. says

    Love the backgrounder to this post and though I’m East Coast born and breed, I call myself a Southern Wannabe. Last year, I ordered stone ground grits from a mill down south and they were awesome. Can’t wait to try your recipe (love that you used smoked paprika, too :)

  9. says

    I love grits! Especially from Anson Mills–is that where yours came from? I also like to chill, slice and fry any leftovers, much as you would with polenta. Glad you came back to the fold…

    • says

      :-). Next time I have leftovers, I’ll definitely chill, slice and fry them up – great idea, Laura! The grits sent to me are Stoneground Grits from Crook’s Corner in Hillsborough, NC. I heartily endorse them, and will check Anson Mills too. I have a whole new world of grits to explore now.

  10. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever had grits, but add cheese and serve them over your delicious greens and I’m in! Fabulous casserole! Sending you #greenslove!

  11. says

    thanks for introducing me to grits…i guess i have been seeing them here in Manila but just don’t know what they are called :)

    have to experiment on this thing sometime and this recipe of yours will be on of the things i will try :)

    glad to be co hosting with you for greenslove!

  12. says

    I’m such a northern girl….can I use the stone-ground cornmeal (from a real mill near my house in Illinois) in place of the grits? I’d love to make this NOW…instead of waiting to order the grits. (:

  13. says

    Grits is completely foreign to me but I did discover some mostly unappealing ones during a trip in North Carolina, I guess they did not come from the same place as yours. Your dish looks truly appetizing and glad you have wonderful memories attached to it now. Beautiful creation for greenslove.

    • says

      Thanks Evelyne! All grits are definitely not created equal. There’s quite a range in texture, flavor, and the dish is largely dependent upon what’s added. Just as I don’t like pasta all by itself, I don’t like grits without something yummy going into them.

  14. says

    This brings me back to the time my friend made me some grits. Yum. I love that you’ve added another component which is the smokey greens. A very thoughtful, warm dish!

    • says

      Thanks so much Richgail! The grits are good on their own, and so are the smokey greens. But the combination is what really makes this dish so well. We’re expecting a rainy week here, and this dish is calling me again. Perfect comfort dish for a rainy day!

  15. says

    What timing…I just had grits with greens a poached eggs while out at brunch yesterday – loved the combination! I’m excited to try your recipe since I’ve never made grits before. Thank you for sharing!

    • says

      Thanks Hannah!! I’ve gotta try grits with a poached egg on top. That would be a phenomenal addition to this dish with the smokey greens. I’m doing it this week!! Would love to hear what you think if you make them.

  16. says

    This is a great recipe with the greens and gouda. My dad used to eat grits, but I could never get into them. Still haven’t. Sending #greenslove your way!

  17. says

    It is funny, I grew up in Michigan, yet love love grits!!! My Mom made them with our breakfast every Sunday:-) This recipe looks delicious, I love the idea of complimenting them with smokey greens! Happy GreensLove:-) Hugs,Terra

  18. says

    Wow I love to hear storiest about grits. I am from South Florida and have always eaten them and loved them. The greens back in those days were my issue. I have since come love all things green except peas. I love your greens recipe too I am going to have to make that without the sausage. By the way it is nice to meet another veggie and I am so glad that I found your site. Have a lovely weekend.

    • says

      Welcome to my site, Suzi! My mom never went too far afield, so to speak, with greens. It was mostly spinach at our house, which thankfully I always liked. The smokey greens are great without the sausage – which is how I typically make it for me. I hope you try them – and would love to hear what you think. Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!

  19. says

    PS…thanks so much for the feedback on my spinach salad! The original recipe called for strawberries only…so you did it right :) And I love your twist on the vinegar…mmmmmm. Have a great Sunday~

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