Give me a bowl of creamy grits and I'm a happy woman. Give me that same bowl of grits topped with slow-cooked greens and I'll swoon. So I didn't hesitate to try out Bryant Terry's recipe for savory grits with long-cooked collards in his new cookbook, Afro-Vegan. He based the collard greens component on gomen wat, Ethiopian stewed collards redolent of ginger, garlic, and chiles. These greens are a fine match to his creamy grits, enriched with nutty cashew cream and fragrant vegetable stock. Topped with a drizzle of spicy hot-pepper vinegar, this is a soulful meal that's hard to resist.
Why I picked this recipe: Grits plus Ethiopian gomen wat sounded like a perfect match.
What worked: Despite the minor pain of using two pots to cook the collards, I loved the way the twice-cooked greens took on a supple, silky texture by the end of cooking. The rich cashew cream was a great way to enrich grits sans butter. I'll be adding that trick to my repertoire, even when I'm not cooking a vegan meal.
What didn't: I needed to add extra stock (you can also use water, I presume) to the greens as they simmered. Most of the cup of stock managed to escape from the pot over the course of 45 minutes and I wanted to keep the greens brothy.
Suggested tweaks: You can use any hearty green here in place of (or in conjunction with) the collards. A mix of kale and mustard greens would work great. If you don't want to bother with the cashew cream, you could leave it out of the grits for slightly less creamy final result. Consider whisking in some olive oil at the end of cooking to make up for the lost richness.
Reprinted with permission from Afro-Vega: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry. Copyright 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- For the Greens:
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 pound collard greens, cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
- For the Grits:
- 4 cups vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 3/4 cup yellow corn grits
- 1/2 cup cashew cream
- 1/4 cup packed minced flat-leaf parsley
- Hot pepper vinegar, for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the Greens: Put about 12 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, then add greens and cook uncovered until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain well, pressing greens to extract as much liquid as possible. When cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board and chop finely.
Warm oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, ginger, chili powder, cayenne, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté until onion is soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in greens and stock and bring to a simmer. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and jalapeño. Increase the heat to medium-high, cover, and simmer for 2 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if desired.
For the Grits: While greens are simmering, put 3 cups of stock and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Slowly pour in grits, whisking constantly until no lumps remain. Return to a boil, then immediately decrease the heat to low. Simmer uncovered, whisking occasionally to prevent sticking, until grits have absorbed most of liquid and are beginning to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup stock and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until most of liquid has been absorbed. Stir in cashew cream, cover, and simmer, whisking frequently, until grits are soft and fluffy, about 30 minutes.
Add parsley and whisk well. Grits should be firm and creamy. Add a bit of water to thin them if necessary.
To serve, top grits with greens, using a slotted spoon so that liquid drains from greens. Add a splash of hot-pepper vinegar and season with black pepper.