Make this southern goat cheese grits and vegetable bowl! It’s a bowl of creamy stone ground grits with goat cheese melted in, topped with garlicky sauteed spinach, roasted sweet potatoes, and black-eyed peas, then topped with salsa verde! Feel free to use any seasonal veggies you like to switch it up.Read More
When it comes to Southern food, most people are a fan. Everyone loves cornbread. Outside of vegetarians/vegans, I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t drool over fried chicken. And what kind of freak of nature would ever turn down a biscuit?
Now grits on the other hand? That is one divisive food.
I think I know the issue. Most people who aren’t from the South have only had instant grits, the icky food-like substance that’s cooked in the microwave. Take my word on it, those little packets DO NOT contain grits. I don’t know what it is, but I know what it isn’t. Their texture is mushy, not creamy. There’s no discernable corn flavor, just salt. And the flavored ones with fake cheese and bacon bits? Don’t even get me started. It’s an insult to corn, and the South, and essentially all of humanity.
Grits are made by grinding dried corn into a coarse meal. You can find both corn grits and hominy grits. The latter is made from corn treated in an alkali solution. This process removes the outer clear coating called the pericarp (aka the crap that gets stuck in your teeth) and improves the nutritional value. Mineral content increases dramatically (750% more calcium!) and converts niacin to a more absorbable form. When corn was adopted as a staple crop from Native Americans, people skipped this step in processing because they didn’t understand the value. This led to a worldwide epidemic of pellagra, a disease caused by niacin deficiency. The epidemic was at it’s worst in the American South and actually, the world’s first hospital devoted to treating pellagra was started right down the road in Spartanburg, SC. I just learned that fact writing this post and feel a little smarter for it.
So there you go, you came for a yummy recipe for grits and BBQ beans and left with a history lesson. I’m a nerd like that.
You can make this dish with any type of grits you like, either corn or hominy, as long as it’s stone ground. Stone ground grits have an incredible texture and when cooked properly, get deliciously creamy. I highly encourage you to order a bag from Anson Mills, my buddies here in Columbia (note – they don’t know me. I just love what they do so much that I consider them friends). They’re known for saving heirloom Southern grains, which are sold to some of the best restaurants all over the world! I used their pencil cob grits, but my favorite is their blue corn grits.
Vegan Cheese Grits and Barbecue Beans
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 can white beans, drained
- Bring 4 cups water, salt, and olive oil to a boil in a medium pot. Slowly pour in grits, whisking with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until grits are creamy, about 45 minutes, adding more water if needed. Season with black pepper and stir in nutritional yeast.
- White grits are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 5minutes. Add tomato puree, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, worcestershire and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes until flavors have melded. Stir in white beans and cook to heat through 2 minutes.
- Divide grits between four bowls and top with beans.
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These cheese grits stuffed poblanos with tomato gravy and melty cheddar cheese are comfort food to the max!
If you are from the South and do not own a Lee Brothers cookbook, then you're not really a southern. Perhaps I'm being a bit extreme. And as someone who has lived a third of her life above the Mason-Dixon line, I probably shouldn't be judging ones southern-ness. But seriously, if you love southern food as much as I do, then you need to familiarize yourself with Matt and Ted. Like me, the Lee Brothers were born in New York. Also like me, they moved down south as young children, ending up in Charleston, SC, the mecca of low country southern cuisine. Their first cookbook, "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook", tells the story of falling in love with Charleston through recipes, anecdotes from their childhood and bits of culinary history.
Both brothers moved back to New York for college. In a city that has an Italian, Moroccan, French, Japanese, Chinese, Ethiopian and a Jewish deli on every block, there was just one thing they couldn't find - boiled peanuts. So, they started making and selling their own. Soon after, they founded the Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue, where they sold artisan southern foods like sorghum syrup and pickled peaches to displaced southerners. Eventually, this led to a career as food and travel journalists, and finally, cookbook authors.
The Lee Bros. hawk legit southern food. No Paula Dean style "let's-throw-in-another-stick-of-butter-deep-fry-it-and-call-it-southern" recipes here. Many of the recipes have been passed down generation after generation from places all over the south - small family-run farms in Tennessee, bayou-dwellers in Louisiana, Mexican immigrants in Texas, or from another must have southern cookbook, "Charleston Receipts." In "Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook," you'll find recipes for perfect jambalaya, baked country ham, low country boil and of course, boiled peanuts.
What I like most about their recipes is that they aren't too stuck on finding "The Most Authentic ______." Just the version they think tastes best. Many of the recipes, like this one, are modernized but inspired by traditional southern foods.
The other thing I love is that they dispel the myth that all southern food is all lard, butter and white flour. Sometimes that's correct, but the south has it's roots in agriculture so southern food was traditionally plant-based with very little meat - think collard greens, red beans and rice, pickled veggies. Although you won't find the Lee Bros. cookbook in the diet section of your bookstore, (not with that four-layer red velvet cake on page 466!), you'll find many whole food recipes with an emphasis on plants. Cornbread and tomato salad, squash and mushroom hominy, whole roasted fish with sweet potatoes and scallions and pickled okra - all dietitian approved!
This recipe was inspired by the chiles rellenos the Lee brothers enjoyed from a random gas station cantina on Johns Island. =It catered mostly to Mexican farm workers, so the food was authentic. As they point out, southern food and Mexican food have a lot in common - corn, squash, hot peppers, pork and cheese! The pairing of cheese grits and mildly spicy poblanos is perfection!
Cheese Grits Stuffed Poblanos with Tomato Gravy
Adapted from Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook.
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
- 1 14-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
- 4 large poblano peppers
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (ditto on above)
- First, make the grits. Bring the milk and water to a boil on medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. When it comes to a boil, slowly pour in the grits and salt while stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring every 2-3 minutes, for a total of about 30-40 minutes until thickened, soft and creamy. Turn off the heat, add the black pepper and cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted into the grits.
- While grits are cooking, preheat the broiler to high. Arrange the peppers, onion and garlic on a large baking sheet. Brush the vegetables lightly with olive oil. Place in the oven about 3 inches from the heating element. Turn the peppers about every 3 minutes until the skins are blistered and well-charred on all sides, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 400 degrees. Transfer the peppers to a large bowl and cover with saran wrap. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, gently rub away the skins. Cut a slit into each pepper and carefully remove the seeds.
- When the tomatoes, onions and garlic are cool enough to handle, transfer to a food processor and puree into a chunky sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Divide the cheese grits evenly between each pepper half. Press the grits into the pepper lightly with your hands or a spoon. Place in a baking sheet and pour the tomato sauce over the peppers.
- Place in the oven and bake at 400 degrees until the sauce is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese on top and place under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes until the cheese is browned and melted.