15-minute weeknight dinner: Vegetable medley over cheesy grits

This recipe is an at-home adaptation of my favorite dish from farmerbrown, a famous soul food restaurant in San Francisco.

I believe the farmerbrown recipe uses pesto, but mine relies on fresh herbs, lemon, and a few secrets for its rich, satisfying flavor. What they both have in common is cheese-infused, creamy grits topped with a fresh medley of succulent vegetables.

And yes, of course, you can make this recipe much healthier with a non-butter substitute and fat-free cheese. I’ve done it, and it was still delicious.

This meal comes together in about 15 minutes — perfect for nights like, say, the Tuesday you stay out late at a certain awards show and arrive home hungrier than you ever thought possible.


serves two

The grits
Quick-cooking grits, 2-3 servings’ worth
Water for your grits
2 pinches of salt
3 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup shredded swiss, jack, feta, or sharp white cheddar — any white cheese or combination of cheeses, plus extra for garnish

The veggies
1 Tbsp each butter and lard (bacon grease)
Juice of 1/4 lemon, ot 3 tsp lemon juice
Any vegetables you have in your fridge, enough for two people (squashes, broccoli, corn, tomatoes, mushrooms, shallots, spinach, etc.)
1 clove garlic, minced
Half a sweet yellow onion
Fresh herbs (rosemary, chives, etc.)
Salt & pepper to taste

First, get the water for your grits on a hot burner, and throw in the salt. As it’s heating, start cutting up your veggies into big, rustic chunks. Organize them by amount of cooking time needed (onions first, then mushrooms and zucchini, then tomatoes and spinach, etc.).

Place the lard and butter in a skillet over a medium high burner and heat until it’s smoking hot. Add the onions, cut into 1/4 inch rings, first.

When the water boils, add your grits and cook according to package instruction. Feel free to use cream or milk as a substitute for some of the water.

Meanwhile, add some of your slower-cooking veggies to the skillet, stirring frequently but not so frequently as to deny the vegetables their chance to pick up some delicious caramelization. Add the garlic when the onions are very soft and on their way to browning.

As the veggies are cooking, squeeze the lemon over them. Add in the herbs and seasonings toward the end of the cooking time.

When the grits are cooked, remove them from the heat and stir in the cheese and butter. Arrange the cooked veggies on top of them, and sprinkle the whole dish with your reserved cheese.

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