Eat Well: As Good as it Grits

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
Last week Larry and I spent four fun-filled days in North Carolina visiting Rachel at the Brevard Music Center where she has spent the summer playing music and enjoying the abundant local beauty. We became instant fans of everything the area has to offer…the music, the waterfalls, the forests, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the FOOD!
Asheville is the “foodie” capital of the south and is famous for the local food movement. The restaurants pride themselves on using local and sustainable meats and vegetables—so much so that one waiter told us they are kind of in a competition with each other as to who is most organic, most local, and most sustainable. You can take a food tour which sounds amazing. We unfortunately couldn’t fit that in, but we did go to the West North Carolina Farmer’s market, brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables, home made canned goodies, and lots of offerings from the Amish, (including pickled eggs), and of course, stone ground grits.
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Every day we ate grits for breakfast, and often for dinner, and I became obsessed with them, so of course I had to buy some Southern stone ground grits at the farmer’s market to bring home.

I learned on this trip that grits and polenta are one and the same. Grits can be served sweet (with brown sugar like cream of wheat) or savory and are wonderful either way. Traditionally, grits are eaten for breakfast, but they can also be a side with fish, sausage, or shrimp. In North Carolina where we were, they're cooked with milk (or even cream) and some butter, then served with grated cheddar cheese. I bought yellow grits at the farmer’s market in Asheville, but at home I found very coarse stone ground white grits at Trader Joe’s.
I personally prefer the coarser grits. While researching recipes, I discovered that you can either add the milk to the water when you bring it to boil or at the end of cooking. I tried it both ways and both are delicious, but adding it at the end makes them a little creamier. There are a million grits recipes out there and if you are a grits lover, you probably have your favorite. But this is the recipe I came up with and Larry gave it two thumbs up.

 Wendy’s Grits with Roasted Okra and Tomatoes 

For Grits: 

1 cup coarse stone ground grits (coarse cornmeal)
3 cups water
1 cup whole milk (more if needed)
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tbs butter

In a large pot, combine water, salt and butter. Bring to a boil. Gradually stir in the grits. Return water to a boil and turn down to the lowest possible heat.
Cook, covered, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. Add milk and stir for an additional 10 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
At this point, you can add brown sugar for a breakfast cereal or 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Or, serve with:

Roasted Okra and tomatoes: 

½ lb fresh whole okra
1 small onion thinly sliced
3 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2 large cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Trim stems and cut okra into thick chunks. Put okra in a large roasting pan with thinly sliced onions and olive oil.
Toss. Roast for about 10 minutes, or until onions are starting to brown. Add tomatoes and garlic, toss again, and roast until liquid is evaporated, about 5-10 minutes more.
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 Add cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and toss again. Spoon grits on plates and top with okra. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
What's your favorite grits recipe? I’d love to hear from you!



Red Stethoscope | 8:34 AM

Even though I grew up in the south, I'm not a huge grits person. My boyfriend, who grew up two blocks away, though, LOVES them. He prefers the savory version, and yes, cheddar is definitely the cheese of choice for topping. As far as where to find them outside of the south (we live in DC), you can find them labeled as "course ground corn meal" or "hominy." Goya has a yellow course ground version that I found at the chinese grocery store of all places.

Red Stethoscope | 8:34 AM

Even though I grew up in the south, I'm not a huge grits person. My boyfriend, who grew up two blocks away, though, LOVES them. He prefers the savory version, and yes, cheddar is definitely the cheese of choice for topping. As far as where to find them outside of the south (we live in DC), you can find them labeled as "course ground corn meal" or "hominy." Goya has a yellow course ground version that I found at the chinese grocery store of all places.

L | 8:35 AM

My husband and I have long been using grits as a substitute for polenta in recipes--it's much easier for us to source. One of our favorite quick dinners is to throw a large can of tomatoes (undrained) in a skillet, some italian seasoning, and stir in a bag of spinach until it wilts. Then crack four eggs over the top, and cover cook until the whites are just set. Serve over grits.

Grits also make a particularly excellent side dish with fritatta. Perfect summer brunch!

Rachel | 9:19 AM

I LOVE Asheville! I live an hour from there in east TN. So glad you got to visit the city!

Stef | 9:24 AM

As a Southerner, it always seemed to me that non-Southerners never like grits, so I am surprised you've taken to them! Back in the day, grits graced the dinner tables of many unaffluent families. I mainly eat them as a breakfast food, with butter and cheese. Too bad my husband never came around to them (yep, he's not from here!) or I'd cook them more often. Those Trader Joe's grits look *really* coarse! I'll have to look for them next time I'm there.

Biondini | 10:20 AM

I'm a lifelong grits eater and will take them just about anyway, but my absolute favorite is with an over-easy egg cut up in them. Also enjoy them, as you said, with shrimp. Cheese grits go well with fried fish. And similar to your recipe, they are great with stewed tomatoes (prepared the southern way with bacon and a little bit of sugar).

Mad Max and Family | 10:29 AM

Ashville is so on my list! That is awesome. I didn't know they were known for that.


Anonymous | 10:29 AM

The first time I had grits was at a diner for breakfast when we were traveling in TN. They were unflavored and I thought they were nasty! Then, friends got married in AL and they had a grits station at the reception. You could have them mix in any number of sweet or savory items. I am a convert. Thanks for teaching me how to cook them!

savorysaltysweet | 10:38 AM

I have a very special relationship with grits, though I am not from the South. I write for Portland Farmers Market (developing seasonal recipes and talking about the greatness of locally-sourced foods), and last year I developed this recipe for grits (freshly milled!) and sautéed chard. I made a potato and pickled vegetable salad to go along with it, and I was in absolute heaven.

Shea Goff | 11:41 AM

Your recipe looks great, but Biondini beat me in telling you how I favor my grits.

I immediately smiled when I read you came to the south. You seem like the kind of gal we'd love to have in our gardens and at our tables.

kristentheowl | 11:45 AM

Yay Asheville and Brevard! I work for a firm in Asheville and after being away for 3 years (while my husband has been in law school), we are moving back soon. A favorite of ours happens to be grits with goat cheese. That is what my husband always gets at Over Easy, one of the best places in Asheville to eat. Yum!

iselby | 12:36 PM

I'm from Charleston, SC so my absolute favorite thing is shrimp 'n grits. I could go for some right now, in fact!

It's also funny that now that I live in Brooklyn southern food is very hip so I can get pretty good grits just a block away. I think we're all the better for it too! Delicious....

Marlene | 1:15 PM

Our family drove cross country and one of my favorite meals was in Asheville at Tupelo Honey Cafe. The grits with shrimp and goat cheese was seriously amazing! Drooling just thinking about it now!

Mommy Anderson | 1:19 PM

I lovelovelove shrimp and grits - and I have an amazing white cheddar grits recipe that is creamy and delicious. I've never liked them sweet, but that's just personal preference. :) Glad you enjoyed!


Roasted okra and tomatoes? Yes, please!

I like grits for breakfast with a little (vegan) butter and maple syrup.

Sophie Lesher | 4:22 PM

I'm a DC girl, but my daddy's from here by way of Winston-Salem, Atlanta, and LA - a true Southerner at heart ;) and he loves him some grits! So does my Bubbe, who's from Montgomery. I know she loves okra, but will have to get a read on my dad's fondness for it before I make this for him. Hominy, grits, polenta - yes, all are the same (though personally, my preference is polenta...much smoother than grits, which are, well...gritty)! But polenta is often just left with flavoring from the butter and cream, and maybe some scallions/chives, whereas grits and hominy are big fans of salt, pepper, and cheddar cheese. I've never heard of putting brown sugar in grits! Sounds good to me, but I know those who would scoff at such "sacrilege" ;)

Thanks for the post, WWW!

P.S. Shrimp and grits are the most classic Southern thing I can think of, second to fried chicken

KF | 5:00 PM

Grits are THE best. I'm actually kind of surprised that as a non-Southerner, you like them! Whenever I mention loving grits to someone who isn't from the south it takes forever and their response is usually "So it's like oatmeal." No, couldn't be further from the truth. I can't stomach the sweet kind, but I will eat the hell out of grits with cheese, butter and salt!

LJ | 6:03 PM

Ooooh myyyyy gaaaaaaahd WWW was in WNC?! Land of my birth and the greatest place on Earth? Not only was she in Asheville, but she was at BETTY'S!? Seriously -- this just blew my fool mind.

Anyways, okay. I am tingling with excitement. Best grits, hand down, are Anson Mills stone ground grits. They're hard to find but SO worth it.

So, git yourself some Anson Mills grits and then make shrimp and grits using the recipe from Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill.

The Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC (my current stomping ground) does bang-up shrimp and grits as well.

I will refrain from WAXING RHAPSODIC about Asheville forever and ever, but I do hope you had a nice time there, WWW! I would be happy to give recommendations/happiness/spare beds to anyone who needs them from your family!

Catherine | 6:10 PM

With goat cheese! So yummy. I had them with goat cheese for the first time in Asheville a few months ago and have been eating them practically every week since then.

AnnaBelle | 6:49 PM

Love Asheville!!! <3

And those grits look SO TASTY!

Wendy Woolf | 7:21 PM

Thank you, all, for your lovely comments and recipes! I can't wait to try them! Drooling just thinking about them! Asheville and Brevard are amazing...hope we get to go back again and also further south. I fell in love, y'all, with the South!!!

Sam | 8:15 PM

I'm from New Zealand so grits and even polenta are basically unheard of here. That being said, I've always wanted to try them since I've heard about them on American TV/movies and, now, blogs. So, I'm going to do my best to find some course ground grits and get my cheese on!

Beth | 8:18 PM

Yum! I'm a Southerner currently in the Midwest and I can say I was surprisingly pleased with Trader Joe's stone ground grits.
A trick I have learned with stone ground is to "wash" them before you cook them - cover uncooked grits with at least double the amount of water, then skim off whatever floats to the top, pour off excess water, and cook accordingly. Well worth the extra step, especially for true stone ground grits.
Instead of (or in addition to) milk, I mix in a little low fat cream cheese with the cheddar grits to make them extra creamy.
And while they may exist, I do not know any Southerner who eats their grits sweet. :)

BlackberryGirl | 8:45 AM

One of the basics of any Kentucky Derby Week breakfasts is some sort of grits-casserole or souffle. After living in Texas for years, I learned to add jalapeno peppers to the old family grits casserole recipe and now it's even better! My two sons never turned down grits for breakfast, they would mix up their fried eggs into the grits on cold mornings and now when they come home, they ask for grits right away.

One can do so many things with grits, my grandmother's cook would save left-over grits in the fridge, slice it into slices and lightly saute the patties for next day breakfasts, usually for when the men got up early to hunt or work! She also served a type of stewed-tomatoes alongside the fried grits patties and it was lovely.

Here in the Bluegrass, we love our grits and there are many ways to serve them. Even muffins are sometimes made out of grits. The best grits I know of are Weisenberger, grown and milled here in Kentucky.

Yes, it's only Northerners that eat grits with sugar! *heehee* I have adapted some Italian recipes with grits for our daughter-in-law, and since both our daughters-in-laws are vegetarians, grits come in handy for main meal courses for them. Babies usually love grits too and the grist are gluten free.

Simply Google Kentucky Derby Grits recipes and that will get you started!

Take care,

Unknown | 9:49 AM

My parents are from Croatia and we would always have warm Grits/Polenta for breakfast with thick sour milk or joghurt. Very nice!

You can add garlic roasted in butter to the sour milk/joghurt. Us kids would'nt eat that, it was the grown up version of breakfast. Today I prefer the latter. Yumm!

Chrissy | 5:49 PM

Yay, that's my region!

My son's first solid food was grits (at the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, which we ate at today!). I love grits straight up, with just a dollop of butter and a smidge of honey or sugar. So glad you liked Asheville, and our beautiful mountains!

Kendra in Dayton | 9:39 AM

My husband makes a fabulous Shrimp & grits dish. Very low in fat and my kids like it.

tianna | 1:08 PM

I love grits, but never think to actually make them on my own. - My favorite is with butter and cheddar cheese.

Amanda | 9:02 PM

I grew up in Texas and refused to even try grits until I was a teenager. I was shocked at how much I loved them! My mother always made them for breakfast. She made them with water, then added butter (with a heavy hand!), Lawry's seasoned salt, and pepper.

Anna | 8:16 PM

Whoever posted the comment with the Crooks Corner shrimp and grits recipe I will second, it is the best S & G recipe hands down! As a poor college student in Chapel Hill I would splurge every once in a while at Crooks and enjoy every little bite. In Asheville, I hope you had breakfast and grits at Early Girl or stomach sure misses living in my favorite place in the world.

Ginny | 8:39 PM

I'm from Australia and had always wondered what grits actually were so am amazed to discover they are just polenta! I cook with polenta all the time! My favourite recipe is what I call polenta pie. Basically just a can of tomatoes simmered with garlic, onion, chickpeas, kidney beans, butter beans, lima beans and some herbs. Then I cook the polenta with water in a pot and, once it's cooked through, spread on a tray lined with baking paper and put it in the fridge to set. Finally, I pour my tomato bean pie filling into an oven proof dish and put the polenta on top as the pie lid and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan before cooking in the oven! Typing this it seems like a lot of work but it really isn't and is certainly worth it! Also, polenta chips are great!!

Ginny | 8:42 PM

Oh and orange and polenta cake is amazing too!!

Arnebya | 8:02 AM

I've never done much to my grits -- just butter and cheese. Growing up I was a cream of wheat girl and didn't want to eat anything hot and creamy if it wasn't that. It truly wasn't until, unfortunately, my husband and I fell on hard times financially that he began to make grits regularly. I became addicted fast because they were so filling and wouldn't leave me wanting a snack an hour later. There were days, sadly, that we had grits as a meal two or three times a day. I still adore them and am thankful my children like them as well, especially as a side for fish (preferably catfish or croaker) or shrimp. I've found that they are a complement for cabbage as well (whereas I'd normally make mashed potatoes).

I don't have a recipe as I tend to simply only want them with cheese. But, since the kids enjoy them so, I have been looking for something different to do to them (and something different with okra!) So, thank you for this.