brunch, mains, sides

farmers’ market monday: green herb grits.

I feel duty-bound to tell you I’m skipping this week’s Farmers’ Market Monday post. You see, I’m up to my ears in homemade farm animal wall decorations, pennant garland, and other things which will transform my house into a state-fair-themed 2nd birthday party wonderland for my Wee One. I made this a few months back, and I feel like it’s got a quintessential summer feel and flavor to it none of us can get enough of right now. So while I try not to hot-glue-gun my fingers together, you enjoy this. It’s filled with fresh herbs, and you could even add some of that summer corn to the mix for even bigger corn flavor.

Because I can’t let summer go by without telling you about these delightful, summer sunshine-filled grits. I made these for myself for a few reasons. Biggest reason? I secretly love grits. I don’t advertise it, I’m not always proud of it, but I could scarf down some grits like nobody’s business. We never even really had grits growing up, so I can’t blame it on nostalgia, save for a smattering of restaurant brunches which had them. Geographically I have no excuses, as I don’t really live in a southern state, although it does border some of the northernmost ones. It’s just, simply, that I have a thing for grits. 

Another reason I made these? I (not so secretly) love every single thing I’ve made from Andrew Carmellini’s American Flavor cookbook. It’s easily become one of my favorite cookbooks this year in terms of recipes and photos, and it’s got some great stories in there. Oddly, even the desserts in the book look amazing, where normally desserts in predominantly savory books seem a little afterthoughtish.

Mr. Carmellini is not ashamed of his love for grits; he doesn’t call this “cilantro-infused polenta,” oh, no, no. These are straight-up green grits, period. No fancy talk here. And they are killer in terms of flavor; super-herby, cheesy, and perfect with anything even closely resembling a Mexican dish. You can even eat this solo: I had mine with a side of fresh sliced tomatoes, and it made for a terrific summer meal. Yes, this is a warm dish, but I still wanted to sit outside and eat it, which is a telltale sign (for me) that it totally fits the season.

And don’t worry: yes, they are green, but not food-dye green; they have a nice green hue similar to that of a broccoli cheese soup, if that helps. Do try them; they would be great with other things, like barbecued chicken, flank steak, and shrimp (because I know some of you out there are shrimp-and-grits fans). If you don’t mind a little chopping and whisking, they’re very simple to make. I will warn you: feel free to cut the recipe in half if you’re only serving a couple of people: it makes quite a bit and will refrigerate for a day, but it doesn’t freeze well. So you’ll just have to eat as much as you can.

Adapted (just barely) from American Flavor by Andrew Carmellini.

Green Grits

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grits (I like Bob’s Red Mill brand)
  • 1 heaping cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
  • 6 smaller scallions, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 fresh grated sharp cheddar cheese (I really prefer to grate my own versus using the pre-shredded stuff, as i think the texture, even when melted, is different)
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (this one is a MUST: please, no cheese in a shaker)
here comes my ever-present note: You should at least glance over the directions on your particular brand of grits (there are always instructions on the package) prior to making these, if only to look at the liquid-to-grits ratios and compare. This recipe works well with Bob’s Red Mill Polenta Grits and Anson Mills Carolina Whole Hominy Quick Grits, but every grit is a different grit. If the measurements are very different, alter the liquids accordingly. 
Make those grits:

Combine the milk plus 2 1/2 cups water in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a simmer. Stir in the salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, get your food processor out (if it’s not out already) and add your cilantro, chiles, and green onions to the bowl. This saves you from having to mess with it later when you should be attending to your grits.

Add the grits, whisking them in slowly and continuously until they are smooth, with no lumps. I work my lumps out by using my whisk to smash any up against the sides of the pot. Once your mixture is smooth, turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, whisking regularly.

Combine the cilantro leaves, diced green chiles, and green onions in a food processor (if you ignored my instructions, which you may have) and pulse for a few seconds until everything is finely chopped.

When the grits have cooked through and thickened to a porridge-like, oatmeal-ish consistency (you’ll know, and it is very much preference how thick you want them), remove the pot of grits from the heat and add in your herb mixture. Whisk until everything is evenly green, add the butter, and whisk again until butter has melted into your grits. This should smell particularly awesome.

Whisk in the grated cheddar and parmesan cheeses until they are melted and evenly incorporated. Serve immediately as a side dish for just about anything, or do what i did, and just eat it for lunch by itself.

Now, i said this above, but these things don’t freeze, period. It gets watery and separates and it’s just not a pretty scene. So i suggest eating them all up straightaway, or maybe refrigerating them overnight. Like salsas and some soups, it’s really best eaten right there and then.

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  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina August 6, 2012 at 8:49 am


    Why do you do this to me when I’m dieting on a Monday morning???

    • Reply shannon August 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      oh no! are we supposed to be dieting today?!?

      because i already ate a few-ish “failed” cookies. and by “failed”, i mostly mean they taste amazing but look strange so i thought i’d eat them out of pity, and also research.

      posting these grits made me want them again. i almost made them. i take it you love them. 🙂 yay!

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog August 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Shannon, these grits look amazing. I love all of the fresh herbage going on. Girl, don’t go feelin’ guilty about loving grits. Grits are amazing! I, too, love them, especially with cheese.

    Good luck with the wee one’s party. So far, everything looks lovely.

  • Reply movita beaucoup August 7, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Confession: I have never consumed grits. Here, grit often refers to the sand one finds in things such as oysters and mussels. Or the dirt in leeks.

    Clearly, things need to change. Because I love those ingredients listed above. They make me think that grits might be magical.

    (Also, I’m way excited for the state-fair-themed party!)

    • Reply shannon August 7, 2012 at 5:59 am

      grits = magical. you have stumbled upon the secret of the grits. although in the singular, “grit” sounds less magical, and is, indeed, the stuff you find inside leek layers. ewwww.

      this party will be so. much. fun. she’s big into animals right now, so i try to do things she would like. i’m hoping someday she’s big into ballerinas, since i have a huge amount of vintage ballerina cake toppers…hmmmm…:)

      there will be documentation and photos, for sure. because i am the sort that will go all out even for like, the 8 people who are coming to the party. so i play to have a little virtual party for her on the blog.

  • Reply Emma August 7, 2012 at 5:29 am

    Oooh ooh ooh OOH I’m going to make this for dinner tonight. We love grits, even though we only have access to the crappy stuff at the grocery store here. We’re not exactly in grits central, you know?

    But I also have a ton of cilantro in the garden that’s starting to bolt, so this is absolutely the perfect thing to make at the perfect time. I’ve got a can of chiles too – this was meant to be. All I need is more cheesyweesy. Yeeeeeuhhhhh!

    Enjoy the rest of that party prep! You’ll remember it, even if she won’t;)

    • Reply shannon August 7, 2012 at 5:56 am

      The grits are a surprise hit, it seems! it definitely was meant to be; i sort of had the same thing happen to me with cilantro i needed to use. it’s exciting when things come together like that, i think. Yeeeeeeeuhhh! 🙂 have fun making grits in anti-grits territory; you’re about as far away from grits’ lovin, geographically speaking, as you can get.

      i have fun with this stuff, for sure. being able to do things by hand rather than getting things from a party store is always fun for me, and for her, i think. Last year, i took a few key items from her 1st birthday party (you would have loved it; i didn’t know or brianne then, but it was a “northeastern crab boil/seashore” theme with lobsters and crabs and sailboats) and wrapped them up together and stored them; i plan to do the same thing this year. so at some point, maybe when she’s 16 and saying i never did anything for her, i’m going to whip out 16 years’ worth of party decorations to prove her wrong. 🙂

      • Reply Emma August 8, 2012 at 5:00 am

        Hehe, I love it. That’s a wonderful idea. She’ll be all “Muhh-thurrrr! You’re EMBARRASSING me! GOSH!” Or if she’s weirdly smart, she might insist that you’ve blown her college savings – which could have afforded her a full ride to Yale – on exhaustive party favors.

        I love it, you sound like a creative genius when it comes to this stuff!

        • Reply shannon August 9, 2012 at 6:59 am

          well, if it comes down to her insisting i’ve blown her college savings on parties, i’ll remind her of how well-adjusted she is, how much fun she had, and how she should have a scholarship to Yale. 🙂 but i think for sure she’ll be embarrassed; although i can imagine she’ll have larger things to be embarrassed about that i do in the years ahead.

          thank you – not a genius, but i certainly know my way around felt and some foam pieces. thank goodness i have a baby now to do this for instead of making felt cows for my OWN birthday parties…

          • Emma August 9, 2012 at 8:14 am

            okay so i made this last night. IT WAS SO GOOD.

            changes: i used a 7 oz can of chiles. i used garlic scapes instead of scallions. i added 5 shakes of hot sauce. i used cheap pre-shredded parm cause it’s all i could afford.

            i repeat: IT WAS SO GOOD. i’m super glad there are leftovers, so i can enjoy it again tonight!

          • shannon August 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm

            you made something i made! yay yay YAY!

            i see no problem with adding more chilies. in fact, i’d also consider doing that. same with the garlic scapes (great idea, by the way!). and hot sauce? awesome.

            i forgive your shredded parm because i’m okay with shredded: just not that powdered stuff. i’m thrilled you love it! i gorged on it when i made it, so i’m familiar with the feeling. you enjoy away!

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