One of my favorite things about food is how it can instantly transport me to some of my happiest memories. A chewy everything bagel, layered thick with cream cheese and lox brings me back to childhood. The smell of black bean soup simmering on the stove reminds me of when Atlanta was hit with a freak snowstorm, and a piping hot bowl was the perfect warming dinner after playing outside all day. Spreading creamy camembert on crusty bread takes me to France, where I first discovered my love of food and travel.
Working with clients on healing their relationship with food, I love to learn about their food memories. It’s so neat to see how different cultures and regional foods play a role! Getting in touch with those memories can be such a cool reminder of how food is so much more than fuel.
To celebrate food, I love to recreate favorite food memories in the kitchen. This past week I decided to whip up a favorite meal from one of our travels - this southern goat cheese grits and vegetable bowl from Tupelo Honey in Asheville.
Before we were engaged, we took an anniversary trip to Asheville and ate our way through town. The best kind of trip! On our first day, we stumbled upon Tupelo Honey Cafe, which has since opened locations all over the South. Since Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison is our song, we decided it was a clear sign to eat there for dinner.
After a three course meal, our romantic night turned into laying in bed uncomfortably full watching Braveheart and groaning with discomfort. But it was worth it! Their brown butter pecan pie was the highlight of the meal, but after that was the goat cheese grits and vegetable bowl I had for my main course. Creamy Adluh goat cheese grits (a Columbia local!) topped with sauteed greens, crispy fried okra, black-eyed peas and salsa verde!
For my recreation, I swapped out roasted sweet potato for the fried okra, since I couldn’t find any fresh okra (and because fried okra is a total pain to make!). Feel free to use any seasonal veggies you like! In the summer, try roasted or fresh heirloom tomatoes!
For grits, you must use stone ground grits and not quick grits - the texture is so much better. I’d recommend one of two local brands, either Anson Mills or Adluh. I buy mine at Rosewood Market, where they always have a great selection of their products. You can also order them online if you don't live in here in Cola. I also love Bob's Red Mill too!
What are your favorite food memories? Share in the comments!
This post was originally published February 2015. Images, text and recipe have been updated to give you the best content possible.
Southern Goat Cheese Grits & Vegetable Bowl
6 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup stone ground grits
3 ounces goat cheese
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
6 ounces baby spinach (1 bag)
1 1/2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
Salsa verde, for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, tossing halfway, until tender and golden.
Bring water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Slowly pour in the grits while whisking to prevent clumping. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, whisking every so often, until thick and creamy, about 30 minutes total. Crumble in goat cheese and stir until incorporated. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
While grits are cooking, heat remaining tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes and saute until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3-5 minutes.
Divide the grits evenly between four bowls. Top with greens, sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas. Drizzle with salsa verde and serve.
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