Green Green Grits

Green Grits // Eat Your Greens

“You have a very cute baby!” said a woman standing next to Rob and me at the grocery store the other day. “Enjoy it. Mine is three years old now, and it’s like they say, the days are long and the years are short.”

Right before walking into the store, Rob had checked his email and found out his show is being renewed for a second season, which means we will be living in New Orleans for at least another year. Big news, huge news, which was instantly eclipsed by the immediate demands of grocery shopping with a seven-month-old. We forgot to talk about it again until we were halfway home. This seems to be the new order. The days are long and the years are short.

Green Grits // Eat Your Greens

Somehow we’ve settled into a daily life here — walking the dog around our new neighborhood, waiting in line for po-boys, finding a dentist — without it ever really sinking in that we live here now. But now there’s no denying: we’re on our way to becoming residents, not just visitors.

When I first starting cooking here, in a short-term rental kitchen with someone else’s tools, I felt totally lost. The ingredients were different. My pantry was sparse. Nothing I made felt right. But now, in my own kitchen with my own supplies, it’s finally starting to click. I’m buying collard greens instead of Chinese broccoli, and experimenting with field peas and other new-to-me Southern ingredients. It’s fun. And we need it, because dang it’s hard to eat out and still eat healthy here.

Green Grits // Eat Your Greens

Thankfully, it is easy to find beautiful local produce, along with locally- and sustainably-produced milk, eggs, meat and seafood, which makes eating in and eating well a lot easier. (And a lot cheaper than in LA!) So I’ve been playing around a bit in the kitchen, using NOLA ingredients with an LA mindset. Thus, green grits were born.

In my quest to both pump up traditionally heavy, dairy-laden dishes with vegetables and avoid making extra side dishes on tired weeknights, I am always trying to cram enough veggies into grain dishes to make them count as a full serving of green. (Or orange: this butternut squash barley risotto is a favorite.) I’ve discovered a love of grits here, but the usual restaurant treatment of equal parts butter and cheese isn’t the only way to love them. This super-green version blends in a bunch of hearty winter greens and a bit of green onion for a savory porridge that tastes just as good with breakfast eggs as it does with a soupy scoop of beans or braised beef shank for dinner.

Green Grits // Eat Your Greens

This is also a very flexible recipe. I like to go full-blast with an entire bunch of collard greens or kale, but if you or those you are feeding don’t love greens, you may be better off with using a milder green like spinach, or using a smaller amount of greens. (Rob admitted to me he found the collard greens version of these grits too bitter. Fine! More for me!) For a slightly richer flavor, you can also stir in a handful of shredded cheese at the end.

Welcome to my world of Southern California cooking in the South. Things aren’t very authentic here, but they taste pretty good — and make you feel a little better about that fried shrimp po-boy for lunch.Green Grits // Eat Your Greens

Green Green Grits

Yield: 4-6 servings

{ Ingredients }

1 bunch collard greens or kale
1 large green onion
4 cups water
1 cup milk (or unsweetened non-dairy milk of choice)
1 cup uncooked grits
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper

{ Directions }

Cut out the tough stems and ribs of the greens and roughly chop. Trim the green onion and roughly chop. Place the greens and green onions in the bowl of a food processor or powerful blender. Process until the mixture forms a uniform paste, adding a little water and scraping down the sides if needed.

Combine the water, milk, grits and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir, cover pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. (Grits will start bubbling and splashing up as they thicken, so keep the lid on when you aren't stirring.) Stir in the greens mixture and simmer for 5-10 minutes more, stirring frequently, until the grits are fully cooked and have a consistency about as thick as sour cream. (This is how Mark Bittman describes properly cooked polenta, which always helps me visualize if I need to add more water.) Add more water and continue cooking, if needed.

Remove grits from heat, stir in butter and black pepper, and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately. Tastes great with poached eggs, beans, or braised or roasted meats.

  • For a milder flavor, substitute spinach for the collards or kale, or use a smaller amount of greens.
  • Uncooked polenta can be substituted for the grits. Adjust the cooking time if needed.
  • For richer grits, stir in 1 cup shredded cheese with the butter. (I like sharp white cheddar.)
   

{ 13 Comments }

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    1
    Marol — January 26, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    So happy to see you posting again ๐Ÿ™‚

    Green grits look yummy!

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    2
    Gina F. — January 26, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    As an Alabama girl, I love the idea of these grits. I think I’ll start meekly with the spinach. You may like to know that LA in Alabama stands for Lower Alabama. I suspect that’s not the LA you refer to. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    3
    Jess — January 26, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Hooray – so glad your voice is back in this space! And what a great start – love this healthy southern twist. And glad to hear you’re getting settled in all ways – in your new city and into motherhood. I’m a couple months ahead of you in this new-parent thing and it just keeps getting better!

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    4
    Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health — January 29, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    im glad you guys are settling in slowly..my boyfriend is from South so I am going to try and see what he thinks of this type of grit. I will be easy and go with spinach with cheese ๐Ÿ™‚

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    5
    Marie — January 30, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    So happy you’re posting again! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    6
    June — January 30, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    It was sooo delicious!

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    7
    michelle — May 16, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    What type of grits do you use? (Will instant work?)

    • Anjali — May 17th, 2015 at 9:42 am

      I don’t think instant grits would work because they aren’t meant to cook for the length of time you need to cook down the greens mixture, so it might get mushy. I buy grits from the bulk bins at the supermarket — it isn’t labeled, but I believe it is coarse-ground.

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    8
    Courtney — May 21, 2015 at 8:23 am

    oh my lord! How have I not heard of this??. I am a southern girl who has lived in San Francisco the last 10 years so I love combining southern food with a healthier lifestyle. I will be making this for lunch today for me and my kids!

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    9
    Elissa — June 1, 2015 at 2:21 am

    Hi, keen to make these with polenta but do you reckon you could make it in bulk and then chuck it in the fridge or freezer?

    Cheers!

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    Jan — April 8, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Ate this for dinner tonight….very good except I found it a bit bland in flavour so I added more salt and pepper and fresh ground nutmeg….next time I make this I will substitute the water with chicken broth, which should allow for a more robust flavour. Thanks so much though….I am trying to eat more healthy these days and look forward to trying more of your recipes

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    11
    Shelby Jane — February 7, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    This is fabulous. Followed the recipe, using spinach. It turned out so, so good. Perfect for a day that has been super gray and rainy. Thank You.

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    12
    Donna — March 11, 2017 at 4:12 am

    I was feeling lazy and looking for a new recipe for the lentils and kale I already had on hand when I was seduced by your beautiful green grits. I happened to have some plain polenta I’d cooked night before (just polenta, water and salt), so I reheated that with some water, then mixed in the purรฉed kale and other ingredients plus some leftover fontina-like cheese. Yum!
    Thanks so much

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