Grits with Summer Vegetables

Summer. Days filled with sunshine, swimming pools, colorful garden vegetables, evening breezes, air conditioning, baseball, ice cream…lots and lots of ice cream! These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think of summer.

If only the days could stay light for 14 hours a day all year long, I would be oh, so very happy. According to my iPhone app that tells me the times of the sunrise and sunset, the sun rose in Charlotte at 6:09 a.m. and will set at 8:40 p.m. for 14 hours and 31 minutes of daylight.

Can you tell by the fact that I have an iPhone app of this type that I am obsessed with sunlight? I can see only one solution for a girl in the Northern hemisphere to get her year-round sunlight fix. I will have to winter in Australia.

On December 21, when the sun will rise at 7:28 a.m. and set at 5:15 p.m., I will wistfully look back on this post and think, “at least tomorrow the days start getting longer!” That’s a bit of a joke in my family, as I guarantee you my dad told my mom today, “Well, it’s the longest day of the year. You know what that means, don’t ya? The days are going to start getting shorter.” He says this every year, and it drives us all mad.

Grits with Summer Vegetables

Six months from now when the shortest day of the year is upon us, I will likely enjoy a warm bowl of grits. Grits are very much a comfort food for me and were my go-to breakfast during the cold, dreary Ohio winters I used to endure. Today’s grits are a little different as I prepared them for dinner and topped them with summer vegetables and pesto (the first I ever made, and with parsley from my tiny urban garden to boot).

I cringe to think of the toils a chef goes through to write a cookbook just to have someone like me butcher the recipe on the internet, but I needed to simplify this one for us common folk. The pesto called for miso, an ingredient I am fairly certain the majority of us do not keep in our kitchens, and the grits called for creamed cashews, which I am sure most of us do not want to take the extra step to make when trying to get dinner on the table.

The recipe may seem tedious, requiring the preparation of four separate foods in grits, pesto, summer squash, and tomatoes, but it is actually pretty easy. I cooked the grits while I prepared the pesto, then cooked the squash while I chopped the tomatoes. I had my dinner ready and the dishes washed in 45 minutes.

The grits, squash, and tomatoes I liked both alone and in the dish as a whole. The pesto was way too tart from my tastes when I sampled it, but on top of the creamy grits and sweet squash, it really worked. I even found myself adding more pesto to the grits as I ate my dinner. So until the seasons change and I’m left longing for bright summer vegetables and light summer days, I’m going outside to enjoy what I have of them now. Enjoy!

Grits with Summer Vegetables

Velvety Grits with Summer Squash, Tomatoes & Parsley-Walnut Pesto
  • For the Grits
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup grits
  • 1 cup milk (whole, soy, or rice)
  • For the Pesto
  • 2 cups loosely packed parsley leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup walnuts, toasted
  • For the Vegetables
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 cups summer squash and/or zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups tomatoes, diced
  • lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste
  1. To make the grits: Bring the water, vegetable broth, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Stir in the grits, return to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the grits to simmer until they thicken. Stir occasionally to avoid the grits from sticking.
  3. After the grits have thickened, about 10-12 minutes, stir in the milk. Continue to simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about another 10 minutes.
  4. To make the pesto: Combine the parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and puree.
  5. Slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth.
  6. Add the toasted walnuts and chop a few times until incorporated. The pesto will remain slightly chunky from the nuts.
  7. To prepare the vegetables: In a medium pan, combine the olive oil, and garlic and sauté over high heat until fragrant, about two minutes.
  8. Add the squash and sauté, stirring to ensure the squash is well coated with oil.
  9. Add the water, cover, and steam until tender. Additional water may be needed for steaming, hence the range of measurements.
  10. Toss the tomatoes with the juice from a wedge of lemon, salt, and pepper.
  11. Combine the dishes by placing ¾ cup of grits, ½ cup squash, ¼ cups tomatoes, and 1-2 tablespoons of pesto in each bowl.
Coming from a vegan cookbook, the broth is obviously going to be vegetable and the milk non-dairy. Realizing we are not all vegans, broth and milk substitutions of your choice are completely up to you.

To toast the walnuts, simply place the nuts on a baking sheet in a 300 degree oven for 7-10 minutes. Stir mid-way through to ensure even toasting. Watch the nuts very carefully in order to prevent them from burning.



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