Thanks to Jenee (and my Paula Deen cookbook), I now have a love for southern food. I’ve always loved polenta – but I never knew that grits and cornmeal were very similar, mostly because I didn’t grow up using them and just don’t have a lot of experience with either.
For breakfast, I usually make soft boiled eggs. I’ve been adding nooch (nutritional yeast – it’s got tons of vitamins and minerals and tastes like parmesan cheese) and spinach lately to give it some more flavor and good stuff, but this morning I just didn’t want it. We’re out of quick and easy cereal, and I didn’t feel like oatmeal, since sometimes it’s just too heavy.
When Jenee and I were in Savannah, one of our only gluten-free options for breakfast at our hotel was grits. The last day we were there, I put butter and grape jelly in my grits, and it was DELICIOUS. The mild salt flavor from the grits and butter went so well with the sweetness of the jelly – it was like a party in my mouth.
Okay, maybe I’m over-exaggerating… but it was pretty damn good for being so simple.
So, this morning, I was thinking that some of those sweet jelly grits would be great. The grits are light and sounded like exactly what I wanted. Problem: I don’t have grits in my apartment. Only white cornmeal.
Cue the googling.
I immediately found out that cornmeal is basically just a more finely ground version of grits, and can be used the same way or substituted into recipes for grits. Awesome.
Next, I found this recipe for cheese grits from Alton Brown, so I thought I would use his recipe as a base for cooking the cornmeal plain, and then do my own sweet grape jelly thing.
Well, about halfway through, I test tasted the grit goodness, and had a change of heart. I did want cheese grits, but I also wanted some good, green veggies. Ta da! Spinach and cheese grits were born in my house.
Spinach and Cheese Grits
Really, though – this was a great breakfast. I halved the original recipe and threw in my own flavor twists. This makes just under 2 cups.
1 C Water
1 C Half and Half (or milk, or heavy whipping cream)
3/4 tsp Salt
1/2 C Cornmeal (I used white)
1 Tb Butter
Extras for Spinach & Cheese Grits:
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1 C Chopped Fresh Spinach
1/2 C Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1-2 tsp Dijon Mustard
Extras for Grape Jelly Butter Grits:
Grape Jelly (or jam/preserves)
Over medium heat, combine water, half and half, and salt, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, slowly whisk in the cornmeal and turn the heat down. Stir until the cornmeal is at the consistency you’d like. If you like your grits “wet” – you won’t need to stir much at all. If you like them thick, you may need to stir for 2-3 minutes.
If you’re making the Spinach and Cheese Grits: Add your pepper and butter to the grits, then add your chopped spinach a little bit at a time. Next, whisk in your cheese until melted. Finally, add your dijon mustard and mix well. Serve immediately. This is really delicious, and has a super rich and savory flavor.
If you’re making the Grape Jelly Butter Grits: Add your butter, and top each serving with 2-3 Tb of jelly/jam/preserves. I just happen to prefer grape, but whatever flavor you’d like would work well – I just wouldn’t recommend a marmalade because of the bitterness. This will definitely satisfy any craving for sweet & salty!
There are literally infinite ways to make grits. A few of my other favorites? Add some monterey jack cheese, butter and freshly chopped, sauteed jalapenos for a little spice. Serve plain, or add a little hot sauce for a kick. Serve with some fresh berries and brown sugar to get your salty/sweet fix. Add different types of cheeses – bleu, gouda, feta, you name it – and serve it as a side with lunch or dinner. Grill up some veggies or seafood and serve on top of grits for a classic southern dish (I’ll be posting a copycat recipe of my FAVORITE grits from the gulf coast soon!).
The great thing about grits is that they really inherit the flavor of whatever you serve them with – making them perfect for breakfast, lunch OR dinner.