Thursday 15 November 2012

Cheese Grits With Spinach, Roasted Tomatoes, and Poached Eggs

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.  It’s where I live.  I love it here.

The island is not a hot bed of grit eating activity.

I point this out because, a few months back, I mentioned on my Facebook page that you can’t buy grits in the grocery stores here and my comment caused great consternation among my friends in the south-eastern US.  So much so that one of my friends - Janet O’Melia - mailed me grits all the way from Georgia.

Well, Janet, I can’t thank you enough.  I’m here to tell you that you’ve made a convert of me.  I love me some grits, especially cheese grits, and have gone to such lengths to get more that one of our local grocers is now stocking them for me.  :)

Grits are whole kernel corn that has been dried and coarsely ground.  Hominy grits – the ones I’ve fallen in love with – are whole kernel corn that is soaked in an alkaline solution before drying.  This process turns the kernels white, softens the outer hull, and gives them a very mild flavour.  The ground corn (either yellow or hominy) is cooked in water or milk to make a porridge-like dish that is served with either sweet or savoury accompaniments. 

Every culture seems to have a food like grits:  a stodgy, filling, high calorie food that is both inexpensive to purchase and easy to store.  These foods vary in their raw materials - from cereal grains like oats, wheat, and corn, through rice, beans, potatoes, and other root vegetables - but their place and purpose within their cultures of origin is largely the same:  They are the food that fueled workers as they laboured in the fields.  They needed to be high enough in calories to sustain hard physical labour, rich enough in nutrients to sustain health when little else was available, and plentiful and inexpensive enough to be accessed by even the poorest worker.  Universally, they are the foods upon which cuisines are built.

My conversations with Facebook friends and my searches on the internet tell me that grits are most often served as a savoury dish and that the most popular way to serve them, by far, is with cheese.  That works for me.  I love cheese, and the added dairy bumps up the protein content of the finished dish significantly.

What I didn’t expect, and what I like most of all about cheese grits, is how comforting a dish they are.  They’re like macaroni and cheese in snuggly blanket form:  Cold weather food.  I’m having a bad day food.  Getting started in the morning with a smile food.  I’ve come to like them so much that I now consider grits a pantry necessity.

Filling, affordable, and high in protein are all attributes that recommend cheese grits as a perfect Meatless Monday meal.  I love serving mine with eggs and have experimented with adding various vegetables to the mix.  

My favourite combination so far is cheese grits with spinach stirred in, topped with roasted tomatoes and a poached egg.  The snuggly cheese grit blanket is a wonderful foil for the dark, earthy flavour of the spinach and the bright acidity of the tomato.  The egg yolk adds richness.  Some freshly ground, coarse black pepper adds bite.  So good!

Here’s how you make it.  For two people, you’ll need:

  • 1 – 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 to 4 eggs (This depends upon how hungry you are.  It’s a filling dish so we usually have just a single egg each.)
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons (approximately) olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tablespoons quick cooking hominy grits
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup grated, sharp cheddar cheese

On the day you plan to make the dish, set the spinach out on the counter to thaw. 

When the spinach is thawed, wrap it in or a piece of old sheet or a clean kitchen towel and squeeze as much moisture from it as you can.  

The squeezed spinach will form a fairly solid lump.  Use a fork to break it apart.

You'll only need about half to three quarters of the spinach.  Put the rest in the fridge and use it for another recipe.

Poach your eggs and set them aside to drain on paper towel.  If you’re poaching them more than a few minutes ahead of time, you’ll want to store them in the fridge.

Cut each tomato into 8 pieces and remove the seeds. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment and put the tomatoes on the lined pan. 

Drizzle the tomato pieces with olive oil, season them with salt and pepper, and toss them so that the ingredients coat each piece.  Spread them around on the paper so that there’s room for air to circulate around each piece.

Roast the tomatoes in a 400F oven for 20 to 30 minutes.  They should dry out a bit, and the skins should begin to shrivel and maybe even darken a little around the edges.

While the tomatoes are roasting, begin cooking the grits.  Place the milk, grits, and salt in a very large bowl (milk expands a LOT when it’s heated to boiling), cover the bowl loosely with a lid or some parchment, and microwave the grits on “high” for 3 minutes, stopping to stir them every minute or so. 

Return the grits in their covered bowl to the microwave and continue cooking them on the lowest setting (“keep warm” on my microwave) for 15 to 20 minutes longer, stirring every 5 minutes.  

While the grits are cooking, put a pot of water on to simmer so you can reheat the eggs.

When the grits have thickened and softened, they should look something like this:

Stir in the cheese and the spinach.  Add a generous grind of pepper and put them back in the microwave for a minute, to heat the spinach through and melt the cheese. 

While the spinach and cheese are heating through, pop the eggs into the simmering water to reheat.

To plate your meal, spoon the grits and spinach mixture into a bowl.  Top it with some of the roasted tomatoes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove your eggs from the simmering water, and place them on a paper towel to blot away any extra water.  Carefully transfer the eggs to the top each serving.

Serve immediately.

So good!

This post is linked to Gallery of Favorites hosted by The 21st Century Housewife and Premeditated Leftovers, to The Pity Party hosted by Thirty Handmade Days, to Foodie Fridays hosted by Rattlebridge Farm, to Foodie Friends Friday hosted by Tracy at Busy Vegetarian MomRobyn at Robyn’s ViewAngie at A lil Country Sugar, Michelle at From Calculus to CupcakesMarlys at This and That, Lois at Walking on Sunshine, Lindsey at Family Food FindsCindy at Cindys Recipes and WritingsCynthia at Feeding BigJodie at Binomial Baker, Erika at Chef Picky KidR Dawn at Spatulas on Parade, Jutta at Hungry Little GirlKelly at Adorned Well, to Foodtastic Friday hosted by Not Your Ordinary Recipes, to Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest hosted by Fresh Eggs Friday, to Foodie Friday hosted by Home Maid Simple, and Simple Living and Eating, to Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, to Nifty Thrifty Sunday hosted by Nifty Thrifty Things, to Weekend Potluck hosted by Sunflower Supper ClubLife As a Lofthouse4 Little FergusonsThe Country CookMeet PennyThe Better Baker, to Your Great Ideas Saturday hosted by Or So She Says, to Think Pink Sunday hosted by Flamingo Toes, to Sumptuous Sunday hosted by Addicted to Recipes, to A Marvelous Mess hosted by Marvelously Messy, to Craft-o-Maniac Monday hosted by Craft-o-Maniac, to Busy Monday hosted by A Pinch of Joy, to Manic Monday hosted by Bobbi's Cozy Kitchen, to Mix It Up Monday hosted by Flour Me With Love, to On the Menu Monday hosted by Stone Gable,  to Delicious Dish Tuesday hosted by  Full Time Mama, Coping With Frugality, and Mama Chocolate, to the Tuesday To Do Party hosted by The Blackberry Vine, to Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind The Curtain, to Wonderful Wednesday hosted by Printabelle, and to Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

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Jenn said...

I'm thrilled to have found your blog... such a delicious place!! You've got me sold on grits. Now to see if Ontario grocers stock them. How different are they from cornmeal, or polenta?

Pinning this to try for a lazy weekend breakfast :)

¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨)
(¸.·´ (¸.·`¤... Jennifer

Nici @ Posed Perfection said...

Looks tasty! I haven't had grits in a long time, but these sure sound good. I'm your newest GFC follower. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving me a sweet comment about my Pumpkin Pie Sundaes. I hope you'll visit again and maybe even follow me back. Have a wonderful week!

Aunt B said...

Jenn, I'm so glad you've joined in the conversation here. :) Grits are like cornmeal or polenta, but a coarser grind. Because of the coarser grind, they take longer to cook. They're very filling so they make a wonderfully satisfying meal.

Aunt B said...

Welcome Nici and thanks for stopping by to check out the post. I'm so looking forward to giving those sundaes a try. :) Popping over to your blog to do a little exploring, and following, now. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe Aunt B. I can't wait to get my hands on a can of grits one day. If I do I'll be making this recipe first. Mr.CBB

Aunt B said...

Thanks Mr CBB. Try Loblaws. I'm told that they stock them sometimes, in the same section where oatmeal and other hot cereals are sold.

Winelady Cooks said...

Hi Aunt B, I just came from Gallery of Favorites. I like grits and was interested in your recipe. When I read you live in Vancouver I was thrilled. I visited Vancouver in the spring and I fell in love with it, it is one of the most beautiful cities I've visited.

I'm definitely going to make your recipe, it sounds delicious. I hope you have a beautiful weekend with great weather.

Thanks so much for sharing,

Aunt B said...

Thank you for dropping by Joanne, and for taking the time to leave me a note.

I actually live on Vancouver Island, across the strait from Vancouver, about a two hour ferry ride away but my sister lives right in the city of Vancouver. You're right: It is very beautiful there. I'm happy that you have had an opportunity to visit there and get to know a little about our coast.

I'm happy that you're going to give the recipe a try. I hope you enjoy it and that you have a lovely weekend too.

Karol said...

Shrimp and grits are on the top of my all time favorite foods list. Saute onion,red, yellow and green peppers and garlic in a little evoo. Then add in the raw shelled and deheaded shrimp. Cook until shrimp are done ( Just a hot minute, really) and serve over cheese grits. Mmmmmmm. I also love a Low Country Fish and Grits. Cook a shredded yellow onion and about a half a pound of chopped thick cut bacon. When the bacon is crispy, add a little chicken stock and just place your fish fillets on top. Cover and let steam until fish is done. Serve over grits. Oh, my, my. I do love some grits!

Karol said...

Shrimp and Grits are just divine. Cook onion, peppers and garlic in EVOO. Add raw, shelled shrimp. Cook just a tiny bit, until shrimp are pink. Serve over Cheese Grits. And also, a wonderful Low County Fish Dish. Saute' a chopped yellow onion with half a pound of chopped thick cut bacon. When the bacon is done, add in some chicken broth. Then place your fish fillets on top of the onion/bacon mixture. Cover and cook until fish flakes. Serve on a bed of hot grits. Oh, I love grits.

Aunt B said...

Karol, we have spot prawn (a kind of large shrimp) season here every May. I'm looking forward to trying shrimp and grits when they're available next spring. :) Your suggestion for a Low Country Fish Dish sounds grand too. We're seeing the first of the winter's cod and halibut at the wharves now. I imagine both would work well with grits. I'll be giving it a try soon. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

Unknown said...

Aunt B, I am not an egg lover, but I must say your photos are stunning! Thanks for sharing.

Lois Christensen said...

I have never made grits and only had them once! AND they didn't look anything like this, so delicious! Thank you for sharing on Foodie Friends Friday!

Aunt B said...

Thank you Cynthia. i'm very glad you like them. :)

Aunt B said...

Thank you Lois. :) I'm glad you like the post. I appreciate the opportunity to share it. Thanks for hosting.

Lisa @ Flour Me With Love said...

These look delicious and are being featured today! Thanks so much for sharing at Mix it up Monday :)

Aunt B said...

Thank you so much for the feature Lisa. I'm honoured. :)

April @ The 21st Century Housewife said...

I've never actually eaten grits, but then again I've never seen grits that looked as delicious as your Cheese Grits with Spinach, Roast Tomatoes and Poached Eggs! I love the sound of this recipe - perfect wholesome comfort food!

Aunt B said...

Thanks April. :) I'm glad you like the recipe, and the pictures.