August 15, 2013

Garlic Sautéed Kale with Corn and Cheesy Grits

There's a brunch place just down the street from my apartment, that I like to refer to as my usual - Cafe Flora. I guess I should mention that they also serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, which I have heard are all pretty fantastic, but lets be honest, I am more of a brunch girl. I would have to say that Cafe Flora is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in all of Seattle, although there may be some that choose to disagree. They serve wonderful things like fresh veggie scrambles, breakfast quesadillas, beignets, grapefruit mimosas, and stellar waffles like the caramel and peach I had a few days back, but most importantly, I go there for there for the cheesy grits. I'd always wondered how they make their grits so delicious. I tried to recreate them last year while visiting family in Canada, but had to resort to using polenta, because I could not find grits anywhere. When I asked, most people had never heard of them before, and then I thought I was in some sort of parallel universe, standing there trying to describe the color and consistency. I bought a box of polenta, and tried to cook it up following a grits recipe, but it just wasn't the same, nor did it taste the same. I returned back to Seattle, kept eating grits at Cafe Flora, but never really thought about making them again. 

I had some close friends in town last week - it's always fun having people visit Seattle, it gives me an excuse to be a tourist in my own city. A few Saturdays back, I brought them to Cafe Flora for brunch. It's a great spot to bring friends, with large brightly lit rooms covered in plants somewhat resembling a green house, and their excellent vegetarian menu. It's always a hit, especially when you start the meal off with a couple of beignets and a mimosa. It was actually plan B, after our car started leaking all of its transmission fluid on the pavement, and then I cursed 40 times, which is probably a story for another time, but I'm glad Cafe Flora worked out, and eventually our car. There was a small moment of time from when we payed the check to leaving the restaurant, that Jenn managed to purchase a copy of the Cafe Flora cookbook for me, as a surprise early birthday gift. And you can bet that the first thing I made from the book was their grits, just as soon as I picked up a box of legit Albers Enriched Hominy Quick Grits. My birthday is in a couple of weeks, and its a doozy - the big 35. I might write a post, bake myself a perfect cake with flowers and lace, and ramble on about how amazing life is, how I am blessed, yadaa yadaa, or I might get stupid drunk on champagne and make a fool out of myself, post stupid pictures to instagram, and hopefully eat a whole ice cream cake to myself that I purchase from Dairy Queen. Seems a bit more fitting. 

Like I said before, I made the grits from the cookbook, and it was stupid easy. Stupid, as in, Heather why haven't you been making these dang grits all along, they are so easy, and delicious, and your life could be that much better if it involved a daily serving. I am not to fond of oatmeal or cream of wheat, even with a generous serving of maple syrup, and nuts, but it turns out that I'm really more of a cover-my-breakfast-cereal-in-cheese type of person, and now I feel the need to invent some sort of creamy savory oatmeal, or does that already exist? 

For my first ever home grit creation, I wanted to add a few of my fav current obsessions - tomatoes, corn, and kale. Seriously, no jokes, it's been nothing but corn, tomatoes, and kale around here for weeks, and I am loving it. It's how I am coping with the end of summer. To add a little extra flare to this dish, I added some more cheese, grated on top, a few dashes of hot sauce, and then left the bottle on the table just in case some more spice was necessary, along with a few slices of serrano pepper - and be sure to wash your hands after chopping those peppers so that you can avoid the unnecessary and awkward telephone conversion with your GP on why your personal bits are on fire. Now lets get out there and enjoy the rest of summer, with a bowl or two of summery grits. 

makes 2 - 3 servings
cheesy grits adapted from Cafe Flora
notes: heavy cream or half and half can be used for the grits. You can even sub in milk if you prefer. I liked to add mozzarella cheese to the grits, but you can use any cheese that you have on hand. Add a bit of butter at the end of cooking to enhance their creaminess. 

1 cob of corn, shucked
1 cup of cherry tomatoes + drizzle of olive oil
1 cup of cream
2 cups of water
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup of grits
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
hot sauce to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup broth
1 bunch of kale, chopped thinly
parmesan cheese
1 serrano chili pepper, thinly sliced

Bring the corn cob to a boil in a medium saucepan on high heat. Continue to boil until the corn becomes tender. Remove from the water and let cool. Just before you are ready to plate the meal, slice the corn kernels from the cob and sprinkle on top.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place the cherry tomatoes onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until they turn golden brown and begin to burst. Remove from the oven and set to the side.

Bring 1 cup of heavy or half and half cream, 2 cups of water, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan on med-high heat. Once boiling, slowly add the grits while stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps. Reduce the heat to med-low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the stove and stir in the mozzarella and hot sauce. Cover and set to the side.

As soon as you place the water and cream on the stove for the grits, add the olive oil, garlic clove, broth, and kale to a large frying pan on med-high heat. Sautée until the greens are wilted.

You may need to whisk in a bit of cream or water to the grits to thin them out, depending on your preferences. Plate the grits, then a generous serving of kale, followed by the corn, and roasted tomatoes. Drizzle the liquid from the sautéed kale on top, and garnish with parmesan cheese, and thinly sliced peppers. Grits do not reheat well.


  1. I love grits. It is the perfect comfort food. I have to try this. Thank you so much!

  2. Happy birthday! :) And what a great present. I'll try this recipe :)

  3. This looks absolutely fresh and delicious! Good thing I have plenty of kale and tomatoes in my garden and the farmers market is tonight where I can pick up some sweet corn.

  4. I'm a total brunch girl too, and this recipe looks lovely!!

  5. This looks awesome! I adore cheesy grits. There is not nearly enough cheese at the breakfast table in my opinion!

  6. Sadly I've never seen proper grits for sale here. I'm going to make it my mission to find some as you've combined all of my favourite flavours here.

    1. This is what I hear. I could always send you a box.

  7. I cannot get this bowl of grits into my life soon enough -- it contains ALL the things I love to eat, no joke.

    Oh, and copious amounts of champagne/eating a whole ice cream cake = best way to celebrate a birthday, IMO.

    1. I definitely agree. You have good style.

  8. This dish is like the epitome of summer. I love when a dish gets you so bad that you will stop at nothing to recreate at home--I've had a few of those myself. Love your variation of the dish!

    I've been dying to go to Seattle for so long now and I'm definitely putting "visit Cafe Flora" on the list.

    1. Thanks for the comment Laura. I would love to recommend more restaurants for you.

  9. Wow I have never heard of grits before and I thought I had heard of most things! It's not something I've ever come across here in England. Is it always eaten as a savoury dish or can you add fruit etc like porridge?

    Amy x

    1. I've only ever eaten it as a savory dish, but that's not to say it wouldn't be good sweet. It is a very American dish.

  10. Heather, this looks so good! I wish I was still there to try it! At least you were able to introduce me to the awesomeness of Cafe Flora after the transmission fluid fiasco. I'm so glad you like the cookbook! I miss you guys! It was such a fun visit!

  11. Hi there: I recently discovered your blog (also recently moved to Seattle!), and it's lovely. I just wanted to chime in on grits a little belatedly, having grown up eating them in the South. You're right; they're definitely not the same as polenta (different varieties of corn, milled to different specifications), although I've had more coarsely ground polenta that's really very similar to grits. One thing I wanted to suggest... if you ever feel like splurging, Anson Mills, in S.C., is a grower of heritage varieties of corn (and several other grains), and produces incredible grits, polenta, cornmeal. I've actually seen the company's name on a few menus around town, so perhaps you've heard of them. They're a little expensive to order from, but it's the next best thing to having a mill down the road, and for me the quality is worth it. They cook up beautifully using only water and a little salt, totally creamy, full of texture and the most amazing full flavor. Before we moved, I had a 2-pound bag of grits that my fiancé and I had picked up while we were visiting my mom in S.C.... from a mill just outside of town, milled that day, for a few dollars. Still kicking myself for not bringing them with us! I think you've inspired me to request a care package.
    At any rate, thanks for blogging, and so glad you finally got around to cooking grits!

  12. I am so eager to try this. I had grits for the first time when I visited my sister in Atlanta last fall. On the day I returned from Atlanta I was taken to Cafe Flora for my birthday. I loved it!

  13. my sweet hubby is making this right now, for our easter supper, as we got our first basket of fresh fruit and veggies from bountiful baskets last night and it included kale, corn and tomatoes. it smells delicious!