CHEESY GRITS: Creamy Goodness! Who Knew?!

Grits9Grits. Just the word has always made me want to rinse out my mouth. I could never understand why anyone would want to eat them…and like them! Until now.

Of course, the key is to cook the cornmeal so it’s not actually gritty.  Add in some cheese and seasoning and YUMMMM! I couldn’t stop eating it!

Note:  I made this recipe using both coarse-grind cornmeal and polenta (the degerminated enriched kind) to compare. It’s really a toss-up – they both worked well.

Additional note: A flat whisk works really well with this dish – it allows you to get into the corners easily. (Photo below)

CHEESY GRITS – makes 6 cups

  • 2 T butter
  • 4 T scallions, white part only (about 4 stalks), sliced thin
  • 3¼ cups + 1/4 cup water, divided
  • 1 cup milk (any kind – I used nonfat)
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
  • 1/2 tsp black ground pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup degerminated polenta or yellow coarse-grind cornmeal (I’ve used both)
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels (frozen, fresh, or canned)
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz jack cheese, shredded

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add in scallions and sauté to soften – about 4 minutes. grits5Add in the 3¼ cups water, milk, hot sauce, pepper, and salt. Bring to boil.grits6 Whisking continuously, very slowly pour in the polenta (or cornmeal). grits7Decrease heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, until thickened – about 15 minutes. Stir often, taking care to get into the edges.grits2 In a blender, pureé the corn with the remaining 1/4 cup water for about 5 seconds. grits4Pour into the thickened grits, also adding the cheeses, stirring to blend. Cook another 5 minutes or so to thicken. grits8Top servings with scallion green slices, more shredded cheese, and paprika, if desired.

 

 

 

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TOFU & DUMPLINGS: Comfort Food At Its Finest!

tofu & dumpling textChicken & Dumplings is one of those classic, stick-to-your-ribs meals that’s considered a comfort food by many.  Of course, being a vegetarian, chicken was not an option. That pretty much left a watery broth and a few carrots, onions, and celery.

So I set out to make a hearty vegetarian dumpling soup with flavor and heft. It took a number of tries with a variety of ingredients, but I finally created what I was looking for.

I, also, experimented with the dumpling size. While the larger ones were appealing to look at and faster to spoon out, I found it was messy business to cut into them while eating. I kept reducing the size until I got to less than 1″ in diameter raw – they plump up during the boiling process. Making them bite sized is perfect so you can eat them whole.

TOFU & DUMPLINGS – makes about 18 cups

  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cups (about 2) onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 10½ oz carrots, sliced
  • 1 lb white common mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3½ tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 T arrowroot
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 T butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 8¾ oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium/high heat.  Add in onions, celery, and carrots. Sauté 7 minutes, stirring often.tofu & dumpling5 Add in mushrooms and continue to cook another 4 minutes, scraping fond on bottom of pan (the browned bits). tofu & dumpling6Add dill, tomato paste, garlic, and 2½ tsp of the salt – cook 3 more minutes. tofu & dumpling7Pour in the Sherry and continue to cook until evaporated, scraping any fond formed. tofu & dumpling8Add the water, tofu, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and parsley.  Bring almost to a simmer. In a small bowl, make a slurry by combining the arrowroot with 1/4 cup of the soup. Stir slurry into soup until it thickens a bit – should take a few minutes. Taste for seasoning – adjust, if needed. Keep heating the soup to bring to full boil.tofu & dumpling13As soup is heating up, make the dumplings. Heat the butter and let cool a bit. Then combine melted butter with the buttermilk – it will get clumpy. Whisk the egg white a little, then whisk it into the buttermilk mixture. tofu & dumpling10In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and 1 tsp remaining salt. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and combine.tofu & dumpling11 Form small dough lumps – 1″ or less.  There will probably be about 62. (These will plump up with cooking.) Make sure you form all these balls before you begin dropping them in the soup so they cook at the same rate.tofu & dumpling12When soup has come to a full boil, one by one drop in the dough balls. Wrap a towel around the pot lid and cover. (MAKE SURE THE TOWEL DOESN’T DROP ANYWHERE NEAR THE BURNER!  YOU DON’T WANT A FIRE!!!) The towel will absorb steam moisture so the dumplings don’t get soggy. tofu & dumpling9Decrease flame to medium and cook 11 minutes. Remove lid and allow steam to escape a few minutes before serving.

SPINACH & FETA: A Yummy Way To Eat Your Spinach!

spinach feta textCooked spinach is not a looker.  It wilts down from a giant amount to a small, dark green mound.  On its own it tastes…okay. But doctor it up with some flavor, crunch, and color and now you’ve got something.

If you’ve never cooked fresh spinach, prepare for a surprise.  You’ll bring home a mass of leaves and think, “this is way too much”. It’s not, believe me.

Note: I like to buy bundled spinach and wash it myself. But that can be time-consuming and is often hard to find.  Stores seem to prefer to carry pre-washed spinach in plastic tubs. If you do buy the bundles, make sure you weigh them – some are larger than others.

SPINACH & FETA – makes about 1 cup

  • 8½ oz fresh spinach leaves (about 2 bunches)
  • 1 T + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 T shallots, chopped (about 1 large)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 T water chestnuts, chopped (I get them canned, in the Asian section)
  • 1 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 T pistachio nuts, salted, toasted
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped

Steam spinach over boiling water for 1 minute – set a timer! spinach feta4Place spinach in a towel to absorb excess water. spinach feta5Roughly chop. spinach feta6Heat 1 T oil in a skillet over medium/high. Add in shallots and sauté a few minutes, until browned. spinach feta7Stir in the spinach and salt – sauté over medium/high about 2 minutes to evaporate excess moisture. spinach feta1Reduce heat to low and add in the water chestnuts, feta, 1 tsp olive oil, vinegar, and pistachios. spinach feta2Stir over low heat, just to warm everything. Add in tomatoes and serve.spinach feta8