Greens and Grits
Who said soul food can’t be healthy? It has been my mission to find ways to make traditional Southern comfort food a little healthier since I started med school and got involved in a few nutrition focused student groups. Most of the patients I work with at the hospital are from minority communities, whether African American or Dominican, Brazilian or Cape Verdean. Food is an important part of culture, but unfortunately most diet-friendly recipes are not culturally friendly. This recipe is adapted from something I found at Eating Well. The original recipe is more universally friendly, since the bacon can get even the pickiest of eaters to try this casserole of Southern favorites. I adapted the recipe to make it vegan, with amazing results! The nutritional yeast gives it the cheesey flavor that makes grits great, and the greens have just enough spice to add dimension to the dish. The most important part of healthy meal makeovers is to remember that the result is a unique creation in its own right. The flavors and ingredients are there to mimic traditional favorites, not to replace them. Save the “real deal” recipes for holidays, and try this makeover for a new weeknight staple! This casserole proves, in either direction you take it, that cultural favorites can be adapted to fit an every day healthy lifestyle.
Greens and Grits
serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bunch collards, stemmed and chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups water, plus more as needed
1 cup grits (not instant) or cornmeal
1/3 cup plus 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp hot sauce
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are tender. Add the collard greens and broth. Cook over high heat until the broth boils, then add red pepper flakes and lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until greens are to desired tenderness. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add the grits (for a traditional, crunchy texture) or cornmeal (for a smoother, more polenta-like style base) and salt. Stir until mixture is thick, then turn off heat – about 5 minutes. Mix in hot sauce, 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast and salt. Next, spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray. Layer 2/3 of the grits mixture in the bottom. Top with the collard greens. Spoon the rest of the grits in loose chunks over the top of the greens. Sprinkle with remaining nutritional yeast. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through and slightly browned on the sides. Cut into 4-6 pieces and serve.