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.
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 pound collard greens, cut into bite-size pieces
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 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 chili, seeded and minced
- 4 cups vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 3/4 cup yellow corn grits
- 1/2 cup Creamed Cashews
- 1/4 cup packed minced flat-leaf parsley
- Hot pepper vinegar, for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper
To make the greens: Put about 12 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt, then add the greens and cook uncovered until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain well, pressing the greens to extract as much liquid as possible. When cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board and chop finely.
Warm the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger, chili powder, cayenne, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté until the onion is soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in the greens and stock and bring to a simmer. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and jalapeño. Increase the heat to medium-high, cover, and simmer for 2 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if desired.
While the greens are simmering, make the grits: Put 3 cups of the stock and the salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Slowly pour in the 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 the grits have absorbed most of the liquid and are beginning to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup stock and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the cashew cream, cover, and simmer, whisking frequently, until the grits are soft and fluffy, about 30 minutes.
Add the parsley and whisk well. The grits should be firm and creamy. Add a bit of water to thin them if necessary.
To serve, top the grits with the greens, using a slotted spoon so that the liquid drains from the greens. Add a splash of hot-pepper vinegar and season with black pepper.