Tag Archives: greens

Way Southern Grits and Greens Casserole

All y’all Southerners out there know and love this casserole.  It’s rich with cream,  two kinds of cheese and lots of bacon.  However, the addition of collards and tomatoes shine brightly through to make this one damn fine dish.  I’m crazy about grits.  I could eat them every.single.day.  But I wasn’t raised on them.  Oh, no.  Remember, Mama couldn’t cook, she grew up in a world where nice girls didn’t cook…”we have help for that”, besides grits ain’t Puerto Rican.  No.  I was introduced to grits when I was in college in Macon, Georgia.  I was close with some girls in another sorority, I had pledged the wrong sorority but that’s neither here nor there, and consequently ran around with a few Phi Mu’s who are still incredibly close to my heart.  These are girls who grew up in Macon… Southern… utterly, thoroughly, to the core, Allman brothers, Fincher’s Bar-B-Q, ATO, SAE, fix your hair, put on lipstick, Southern.  I don’t remember what BettyGeorge’s daddy did, but Parks’ daddy was a physician and bred roses.  All the girls in Macon called Parks’ daddy the minute they were engaged, “Doctuh Popejoy? Hey! It’s Elizabeth Louise and I’m gettin’ married in May.  Do you think you might could do the roses for the weddin’?”  Every girl wanted Dr. Popejoy’s roses.  Anyway, the morning I first tasted grits, Parks was to pick me up in her car and then we were to go on to BettyGeorge’s house and from there probably to some day drinking party or something event I’ll never recall.  I always thought “George” was Betty’s first or middle name but years later I found out it was her last name, though, to me, she’ll ALWAYS be BettyGeorge, one name, first name.  Regardless, Parks pulled up to my dorm, tooted the horn and off we went.  We laughed and chatted as she flew through the twisted streets of Macon when suddenly we slowed, entered huge wrought gates and stopped in front of the most gorgeous, majestic estate encircled by enormous, ancient trees dripping with Spanish moss.  The windows were floor to ceiling; the front door double and very, very thick.  The house was positively exquisite in every possible way. Now, Gentle Reader, I had traveled a good bit.  I had seen many a stately home.  I had not just fallen off the turnip truck.  But this was something else.  My jaw actually dropped.  As Parks popped out of the driver’s side of the car I turned to her and asked in complete disbelief, “THIS is Betty George’s house??”  Parks whooped and laughed while announcing, “No! I just always wanted to do this!  C’mon…we gotta get outa here before we get caught for trespassing!”  Gosh, but that was one good-looking piece of property.  Two seconds later we pulled into BettyGeorge’s house, Park’s let herself in and we met BettyGeorge in the kitchen.  Her parents weren’t home so we flopped down as teenagers are wont to do while BettyGeorge poured us glasses of sweet tea in faceted glasses, none of that plastic stuff.  As I sat I spied a cast iron skillet on the stove with a few golden rectangles each about the size of a pack of cards still glistening with oil and I innocently asked, “What’s that?”  They both whirled around and replying, “That?  Are you kidding?  You can’t be serious.”  “No, really.  I mean, I don’t know.  What is it?”, I questioned, embarrassed that I, clearly, didn’t know what “that” was.  “Those are fried grits,  shug!  Haven’t you ever had ’em?”  “No!”, I emphatically answered, “My mother doesn’t cook.”  They shot each other that pathetic, “Oh, God. Poor li’l thang” look.  I didn’t care.  I’d gone my entire life hungry and I did not care.  Just explain it to me, okay?  You don’t have to feel sorry for me, only will you please fill me in?  And they did.  Both girls ever so patiently explained to me that all manner of dishes can be made from grits, whether they be left over from breakfast or not.   All manner of ingredients could be added to them from cheese to sausage to greens.  There were only two rules.  The first, and most important, never, ever prepare quick or instant grits.  Ever.  Just don’t do it.  It’s nasty.  Only old-fashioned, regular grits will do.   You WILL know the difference.  And number two.  Always, always, always stir the liquid to make a “tornado” while slowly pouring in the grits.  And there ya go.  I’m pretty certain those girls have absolutely no recollection of that morning in BettyGeorge’s kitchen,  but I do.  It was magic.  Southern magic.  Make this.  You’ll swoon.

This casserole is beyond perfect for brunch or a special occasion.  It’s one of the dishes I’ll be serving this Easter Sunday.  It’s rich and gorgeous and everyone goes crazy over it.  All ingredients can be prepared in advance except the grits.  That said, cook up the grits before church, mix it all together, slap it in the oven and take off.  When you come home the casserole will be all warm and bubbly.  Btw, sliced spring onions scattered over the top right before serving are really great.

Way Southern Grits and Greens Casserole

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 15 or 16 regular bacon slices or 10 thick sliced bacon slices
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely grated
  •  1 1 pound bag frozen, chopped collard greens
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, well-drained
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups grits, not instant or quick cooking
  • 1 1/4 cups parmesan cheese, grated and divided
  • 1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated and divided
  • 2-3 pinches red pepper flakes, optional
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and grease a 9X13 casserole dish and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet cook the bacon, set aside to drain on paper towels and discard bacon fat leaving 3 tablespoons in the pan.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook until soft and clear.
  4. Add the collards, stirring continuously until completely coated with the onions and garlic.
  5. Add tomatoes and pepper flakes, stir well and turn off heat.
  6. To a large pot add the heavy cream, half and half, chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  7. Drop the heat to simmer, and stirring the liquid with a large whisk, slowly pour the grits into the boiling liquid.
  8. Continue whisking until the grits are done according to the package directions, 15-20 minutes.
  9. Add to the grits 1 cup of parmesan and 1 1/4 cups of Monterey Jack to the grits, stirring until melted.
  10. Add the collard mixture to the grits and gently fold until well combined.
  11. Pour the collard and grits mixture into the baking dish.
  12. Top the dish with the remaining parmesan and Monterey Jack.
  13. Crumble the bacon and scatter over the casserole evenly.
  14. Bake until golden on top or serve at room temperature.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Savory Greens Pie

Being in Beijing on a summer internship James has been considering different career paths, embracing some and trashing others.  It can be a difficult time especially if there are several enticing options.  I knew EXACTLY what I was going to be when I grew up.  I was about six or seven years old.  I was going to be an Indian.  An American Indian.  Specifically an Apache.  I was going to be a brave, a warrior, and I would be the only girl.  I completely immersed myself in American Indian lore, swallowing books one after another.  I would have a full quiver of arrows slung across my back and a razor-sharp hatchet hanging from my side.  I fully accepted that I would have to scalp a white person or another Indian in battle.  I only hoped I would be able to slice those scalps quickly and cleanly.  My clothing would be of the softest leather, my moccasins so light I could fly through the forests without making a sound or leaving a trail.  My name would be Red Wing.  And, of course, my hair would turn from honey brown to blue-black.  Mama was so very patient with me.  She was always 100% supportive of any and all of our endeavors.  Time and time again she would say to me, “Cielo, you can be anything you want.  You can be a doctor, a ballerina, a scientist.  But you cannot, YOU CANNOT be an Indian.”  I remember thinking, “You’ll see.”  Dad had been making preparations for his next trip to the Amazon, I remember he’d get so sick after rounds of shots.  The day of his departure I approached Daddy and told him I needed to talk to him about something really important.  He knelt down and I asked him if he was going to see any Indians where he was going.  He answered yes, that the area he would be working had several different tribes.  I asked if he would do me a favor.  I opened my dirty, little fist and in it was my most prized possession.  A small mother-of-pearl pocket knife with the name Birch State Park stamped on the side in cursive.  Cursive is very important when you’re in first and second grade.  I asked Daddy if he would make a trade for me with THE INDIAN CHIEF.  I ended my request by telling him, “It’s what we Indians do.  We trade.”  He slipped the knife in his pocket and off he went to the Amazon to work on the genetics of a certain kind of fish.  We never heard from him while he was gone.  I don’t know how my mother did it, knowing he was in remote areas but not really knowing where.  He went where the fish were.  Up and down the river, catching little prop planes about the size of mosquitos and then he’d poke around some more.

Wattley’s Turquoise Discus

When Dad finally returned he always came back just a mess.  He is naturally thin but after weeks on the banks of the Amazon he’d come back thin as a rail.  And usually with some God-awful intestinal malady and possibly a high fever.  It was never pretty.  After a few days he was more approachable and when I knew he was willing to talk I jumped in.  “Daddy.  Daddy!  DADDY!!  What did you bring back?  Did you see any Indians?  Did you make my trade?”  I couldn’t wait to see.  He smiled and brought out a large but thin wooden box.  He watched my reaction as I took off the wooden cover.  What I saw left me breathless.  It was the most magnificent insect collection imaginable.  There were butterflies with colors seen only in the rainbow four to five inches wide.  Jet black beetles that when moved glistened like black opals.  There were grasshoppers five and six inches long, the palest of iridescent green.  It was spectacular and most splendid!  Dad and I are the only bug lovin’ folk in the family.  They fascinate us and we recognize their beauty.  I don’t mean a common cockroach.  No, these were exquisite.  And he had gotten them from an Indian!  I treasured my collection for years but as I grew older my interests changed.  Mama sat me down one last time for a little “Cielo, you can be ANYTHING you want but not an Indian” talk.  It was okay.  I had moved on.  I was going to be a nun!

We loved shocking company with this photo!

In later years I asked Dad what he ate on these trips.  He said during the early years the Indians would prepare food.  Lots of eggs and some fish.  So here’s my recipe for a really good savory pie.  It calls for fewer eggs than quiche but more than spanakopita.  The greens and cheeses are interchangeable.  I adore the sharp bite of dandelion greens but spinach is just fine. Or chard.  I suppose you could use kale, everybody’s all crazy about kale right now but not me.  I hate kale!!  The only reason I added the Gruyère is because I had a couple of slices I wanted to get rid of and use so in they went.  Boy, did that make it sing!  Parmesan could be used in place of feta or a combination of both as well.  Feel free to make your own pastry but after working all day it ain’t happening.  I only make homemade during the holidays. And if you feel strongly about using only pork bacon, well, by all means.  But try Butterball sometime.  It does need to be prepared stove top but the flavor is superb, it’s crunchy and a thousand times less greasy.

Savory Greens Pie

yield: one deep dish pie

  • 1 store bought pie shell, usually found in the dairy section
  • 4-5 strips of bacon, cooked to crisp and crumbled
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bunches organic greens, washed and chopped into 3/4 inch pieces, eyeball it
  • 1 1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup Gruyère cheese, finely chopped or grated
  • 6 or 7 organic eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup organic milk, I use fat-free
  • salt and pepper to taste, not much salt because of the bacon and cheese, lots of freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Place pie shell in ungreased deep dish pie pan and set aside.
  3. To a medium-sized pan add olive oil and shallot and cook over medium heat until clear.
  4. Add chopped greens and cook, stirring often, until soft.
  5. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. To a large bowl add feta, bacon, eggs, milk and stir to combine.
  7. Add greens, stir well and taste for any salt or pepper needed.  I love black pepper!
  8. Pour into pie shell and scatter Gruyère evenly over the top.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes or until dark golden on top.
One of my most favorite photos of Dad. He looks as though he was whistling and he LOVED to whistle!!

Collards with Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread, oh, yes, ma’am!

Many, many years ago I went to college at a school in Macon, Georgia.  I did.  My father owned a pretty elegant women’s clothing store in Fort Lauderdale, aeons ago, and, honey, when his little girl went off to school he made sure she was nothing less than the fashion plate she deserved to be!  He went to New York on a special buying trip JUST FOR ME!! (It’s never been better!!) I had pea coats, car coats, over coats, rain coats, pants, skirts, dresses, tops, oh, and the shoes!!! Cashmere, camel-hair, Egyptian cotton, it was heaven! And I was a size 4.  Yup.  I was.  Meanwhile, up in Yankee country, the man whom I would one day marry, was a TA  in a class entitled “Introduction to Environmental Planning and Design” for undergraduates at Tufts.  Really??? At that time Jimmy had a super long beard, really long hair, glasses…from what I’ve heard he was angry ALL the time!!  And he protested.  On the level of get thrown in jail and be on the 6 o’clock news.  He was what we called “a hippie”.  “A radical long-haired hippie”.  With a big smile on my face, I would have, elegantly and with a lot of style, crossed the street to avoid him!  Suffice it to say, he would have looked way down his perfect Greek nose at me and stayed on HIS side of the street.  No love lost.  It was 1975 and we were worlds apart.  We just hadn’t met yet!  Anyway, same time but hundreds of miles away, Jimmy had a field trip planned for his students to look at distressed neighborhoods in Dorchester, pronounced Dah-ches-tuh by Bostonians, and had four undergrads in his ’72 Volvo, (how sensible!). They were leaving Jamaica Plain, on the Jamaica Way, adjacent to the Arnold Arboretum, when some of the students looked out the window and questioned what a couple of women bending over on the side of the road were doing.  Actually, they were in a field.  When they bended over, you could see their hose rolled up under their knees. “What’s out there?” questioned the students.  “What are they doing?”  Jimmy stopped chattering about urban development, turned, looked, and thought “f..k me.”  He thought, “Jesus, Ma!!”  It was his mother and Mrs. Scarlatos.  Mrs. Scarlatos’ son was Jimmy’s best friend since they were two years old!  (I think that is SO nice!)  They were on the side of the highway picking greens.  That’s what Greek moms do.   Good Greek moms! That’s why they live so long, if they’re not hit by a car first!!  Collards are a superfood in my kingdom.  I pretty much never buy bagged.  I buy the prettiest bunches I can find.  These greens pack a HUGE nutritional punch!  On all leaves except the small, pale green inner leaves, I cut out the middle rib, the stem.  I just can’t stand them floating around in my greens!  But that’s just me. I’ll typically buy two large bunches and eventually, take some to my parents.  Of course, my younger sister, Pamela, will be called and she’ll pack some up to take home and then, promptly suck down some here!  For some time now I’ve been using smoked turkey pieces in my greens instead of ham hocks.  The taste is still sublime but they’re much better for you.  That’s not to say I haven’t deviated.  I’ve used ham hocks, pancetta, prosciutto, just about any savory pork product I have in the house and they all work well.  The smoked turkey tastes just like a pork product but you do need to factor in more time. A couple of hours to tenderize the turkey and create a nice broth in which the greens cook.  In the South, collards are always served with cornbread.  I know it’s easy to pick up that light, blue box that costs next to nothing, but homemade is almost as easy, just a thousand times tastier!  Let’s talk a little about the vessel in which you’re going to make your cornbread.  Cast iron skillets.  A gift from God!  There’s a little someone up in Massachusetts that just got one so here are my thoughts.  Water never, EVER touches mine.  I don’t care if I fry fish, water ain’t touching it.  When cooled, I wipe the inside out well with paper towels and then pour a liberal amount of plain, old table salt into the pan.  With a clean paper towel, I rub that salt all over, getting up all bits of fried food and any excess oil.  I might do that two or three times until it’s wiped clean.  It’s SO worth it!  The satiny, beautiful sheen on that pan when you’re finished will make your heart sing!  At least it does mine!  If you want to season a new cast iron pan, pour a little vegetable oil in the pan, rub it around with a paper towel wiping off any excess.  Put it in a medium hot oven, maybe 350°, and leave it there about 15 minutes.  Take it out, let it cool, then put it away.  After that, the more you use it, the more beautiful it becomes.  Just no water, please!  And I’ve got a shout out to my girls at “the Dixie”!  Hey to April and Latoya who always have my culinary back!  Y’all are the best!

Collards with Jalapeno Cornbread

  • 7 cups water
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large smoked turkey leg
  • 2 bunches collards, ribs cut out, washed and cut into thin ribbons
  • 2 tbls. white vinegar
  • 1 heaping tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbls. olive oil
  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, combine water, onion and turkey leg.  Bring water to a boil, drop to simmer, cover and let cook for 2 hours.  This will be the base of your pot liquor.
  2. During the last half hour of cooking time, cut the ribs out of the collard leaves, roll the leaves cutting them into thin ribbons, wash well in sink and drain of excess water.
  3. Take turkey leg out of pot and set aside.   To pot add greens, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and olive oil. Mix well.  I use tongs to toss and combine.  That way I’m not tearing up the greens.  Cover and continue to simmer.
  4. When cool to the touch, shred turkey leg, adding meat to the pot and discarding any bones, skin or funky pieces.  Toss well with greens, add water if dry, maybe 1/2 cup, cover and simmer another 45 minutes or so.  Serve with cornbread.

Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread

Yield: one skillet

  • 5 tbls. butter, divided into 3 tbls. and 2 tbls.
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, bagged is just fine.
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbls. jarred, chopped jalapenos
  • 2-3 washed, chopped scallions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Place 3 of the 5 tbls. of butter in skillet and place in hot oven to melt.
  3. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients including shredded cheese.
  4. In a small bowl mix buttermilk, eggs, jalapenos and scallions. Melt last two tbls. of  butter and mix into buttermilk mixture.
  5. Pour buttermilk mixture into cornmeal mixture and combine well.
  6. Using glove or dishtowel, carefully take skillet out of oven, (DON’T BURN YOURSELF!), pour cornbread mixture into skillet and return to oven.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes or until, you guessed it, golden on top!
  8. Again, be careful not to burn yourself taking it out of the oven.  I let mine cool for a few minutes on a cutting board, before cutting.  Dig in.