Hailing from Georgia as I do, I find it hard to believe that there are people, going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it, who actively hate grits. Surely, I figure, they haven’t been introduced to a properly composed bowlful of the stuff. Who of right and stout mind could resist its considerable, cheesily substantial appeal?
Perhaps (although it seems like its own form of craziness) it’s in the butter and the cheese of it all that the problem lies. After all, several of my friends in Atlanta, a number of whom were Georgians born and raised, invariably opted for the healthier charms of cornbread, toast or fruit when we’d go to brunch on Sundays. I thought of them when tinkering with this Epicurious recipe for butternut squash polenta.
I decided to use grits instead of polenta, and tack all other modifications along a vegan, Thai-inspired line: coconut milk to flavor the cooking liquid; roasted butternut squash and tiny shallots pureed and folded into the grits; a sunny blast of chili and lime at the close. Under a pile of crunchy, citrusy broccoli almondine, it was delicious, odd and inspired in equal measure.
Butternut Squash Grits
Makes 4 servings
1 cup quick-cooking grits
1 cup coconut cream
1 cup coconut water
1 cup water
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups butternut squash, cut in chunks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
sea salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss shallot and squash with vegetable oil and lime zest; roast in oven on baking sheet until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, then puree in blender until smooth. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Quickly stir in grits, then add coconut milk and coconut cream; whisk until well combined. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until consistency is creamy and kernels of hominy are softened. Fold in squash-shallot puree, then lime juice and chili flakes. Salt to taste.
Broccoli Almondine (from Epicurious)
Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, stems peeled, then head cut into 2-inch-wide spears
1/2 stick unsalted butter (or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil)
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Cook broccoli in a steamer rack over boiling water in a large wide pot, covered, until stems are just tender when pierced with a knife, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove steamer from pot and discard cooking water. Cool broccoli 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat butter in pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook almonds, stirring, until butter and nuts are golden and have a nutty aroma, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add broccoli and toss.