I woke up one morning craving grits and greens.
I didn't grow up in the South and I didn't eat grits or greens until I was older, so I never had the kind served with milk, cream, ham hocks or bacon. But somehow it seemed right to add tempeh "bacon" strips which have a smoky flavor some might find reminiscent of bacon.
I might use Italian kale for dishes like this, also called Tuscon, black or dino kale. Whatever you want to call it, it's generally my go-to green, but for this dish, consider collards. They are more tender and with a milder flavor, they allow the lemon and smoked tempeh to take center stage. Add a bit of lemon juice and it's a perfect frame for the polenta or "grits."
I'm not sure what the exact difference is between polenta and grits, but I'm treating them the same for this recipe. I had Amish butter coarse cornmeal from Ayers Creek Farm in my freezer. This local coarse cornmeal has the best flavor. And the directions for cooking these grits came from Ayer's Creek Farm.
If you don't have shallots, use red onions.
I'm not the only one who loves seasonal greens around here. My Cooking Assistant has stolen them on occasion.
Swiss chard would also work in this recipe, if that's what you happen to have. It takes less time to cook than kale, so it's a good option for a quick meal.
I might also add toasted pecans or pine nuts to top this dish, just to vary the textures.
Grits and Greens
2 cups water or vegetarian stock
1 cup coarse cornmeal "grits"
2 cups almond, rice or soy milk
1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons oil
6 tempeh bacon strips
1 or 2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 bunch kale or collard greens, stem removed and sliced thinly, then chopped
2 or 3 tablespoons apple juice
Fresh Meyer lemon juice
Heat water or stock in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. When water boils, add coarse cornmeal or "grits"in a thin stream, follow with salt. Once the grits have been added, stir in the milk and sea salt. Stir for 2 minutes. Adjust heat so mixture simmers but does not boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover and stir for 1 minute. Repeat this process two more times. The mixture will be very thick. Spread in a baking pan (9 by 11- or 13-inch).
While grits cook, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, add oil and tempeh strips. Cook on both sides until browned and crisp. Remove from pan and add shallots. Stir and cook until shallots begin to brown, then add greens. Stir and add apple juice. Cover and braise the greens until they soften, adding more liquid as needed. Cut and serve grits topped with greens, tempeh and shallots. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice over to taste.
Enjoy your local flavors.