An addictive melding of slightly bitter spinach and creamy stone-ground grits. The recipe is entirely plant-based, perfect for Meatless Mondays or a vegan quick supper. Better still? It's 100% real food, no processed food, what I call Vegan Done Real.
Oprah, please, you can do vegan without processed foods too.
The “Big O” has mathematical and theatrical references (what, you were thinkin’ somethin’ else?) but today I want to talk about a famous Big O, Oprah, and her Big Opportunity and how she missed it.
Oprah and her staff have this vegan thing going, choosing to eat vegan – no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no fish, only plant-based foods – for a week. It was billed as a good way to promote healthy eating habits and Oprah challenged her fans to try eating vegan too.
I happened to catch the February 1 show on a snow day and felt not challenged but horrified as vegan products paraded across the screen – not a single vegetable in sight, only faux replacement ‘meats’ and ‘cheeses’ and one highly processed food after another.
And Oprah’s vegan shopping list? Awful. I’d link to it but thankfully, the list is no longer live. Still, think vegan hot dogs and toaster waffles. Now that’s gross. I’d bet a head of broccoli that the list was actually paid advertising.
Vegetables and fruits made up – get this – a measly seven percent of that grocery list. Instead of showing Oprah fans how to cook delicious vegan recipes, she showed them how to warm up Tofurky Italian Sausages and snack on kettle corn. This, people, is not healthy eating.
Regular readers know that Kitchen Parade is neither vegetarian nor vegan – yet my vegetarian and vegan recipes are some of the most popular recipes here. They start with vegetables and are filled out with other healthy whole ingredients like grains and beans. These recipes use real food, unprocessed food.
So yes, Oprah, your Big Opportunity earns one Big Fat Sorry F.
VEGAN DONE REAL To counteract Oprah, I reached out to my fellow food bloggers to collect 52 of our favorite vegan recipes -- all whole food, all real food -- that's one to try for every week in the year. We call it Vegan Done Real: 52 Favorite Vegan Recipes from Ten Whole-Food Food Bloggers.
GRITS, REALLY? My friend Lisa from My Own Sweet Thyme will laugh that I’m writing about grits since for many years I withstood all her good-hearted attempts to reverse a rare food aversion to the little bits of dried corn. She even used the usually reliable “add-a-pile-of-butter-and-cheese” trick (aka Cheese Grits) but nothing broke through. It took a polenta, a culinary cousin and a much prettier word, yes? to knock sense into my palate.
That said, my Greens & Grits has also been Greens & Polenta (using the recipe for Garlicky Polenta included with Seared Scallops with Garlicky Polenta), even Greens & Steel Cut Oats. There’s just something special about the slightly bitter greens atop the warm, creamy cereal that’s addictive.
GREENS & GRITS
Time to table: 30 minutes
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup finely ground grits (see TIPS)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, washed, trimmed and cut into fat slices or quarters
- 1 pound frozen spinach (no need to thaw)
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon ‘adobo sauce’ from a can of chipotle in adobo sauce or a few drops of hot sauce
- Salt to taste (but don’t skimp)
- 4 teaspoons good olive oil
GRITS In a medium saucepan, bring the water, salt and garlic to a boil on medium high heat. Slowly add the grits to the liquid, whisking the entire time to avoid lumps. Once the grits are all in, reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook until done, about 15 minutes, stirring often to avoid sticking and burning. If the grits are done before the greens, reduce the heat to low and keep warm. This makes 3 cups cooked grits.
GREENS In a heavy skillet, heat the oil til shimmery, add the onion and stir to coat with fat. Stir in the mushrooms as they’re prepped, cook until the onions and mushrooms are cooked through but not soft. Stir in the spinach, tomatoes and adobo sauce and cook, stirring often, until the spinach is hot and fully cooked, about 15 minutes. Add salt to taste.
TO SERVE Pool the grits in an individual serving bowl, top with the hot spinach mixture. Drizzle a teaspoon of oil around the edges of the grits, serve and savor!
ALANNA's TIPS Look for stone-ground grits in the grocery store in the Bob’s Red Mill section. They produce corn grits, watch for packages labeled 'grits' or 'cornmeal' or 'polenta'). I also have great luck ordering both freshly ground cornmeal and grits directly from the mills, both War Eagle Mill in Arkansas and Anson Mills in North Carolina. For a quick-cook recipe like this, be sure to select something with a fine grind, not a coarse grind. Many grocery stores carry Quaker grits, just be sure to buy the 'quick' grits, not the instant grits. If ever there were a ‘concept recipe’ this is it. I’ve made this four times and each plateful has been different and delicious. Use fresh greens like kale or Swiss chard, just be sure to wash the greens very well to remove the grit – not the grits, the grit! Add other vegetables like fennel or celery or eggplant. For vegetarians who eat dairy, stir a tablespoon or so of yogurt, sour cream or Parmesan cheese into either the grits or the greens. For omnivores who eat meat, start with bacon grease rather than olive oil. All three? Delicious!
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