A saucy little romance novel made me do it.
Yup, it was a sassy southern read, Hissy Fit by Mary Kay Andrews, that planted the idea of a grits n’ greens casserole in my mind. (True confession: I love funny, fluffy romance novels.)
Anyhoo, I was just reading along, wondering how the heroine, Keeley, was going to end up with her handsome man, when all of a sudden, BAM! I’ll be darned if the author didn’t describe—in luscious detail—every delicious step in the making of a sinfully decadent grits n’ greens casserole.
Well, being a foodie, I lost all track of the novel’s plot. The only hot and steamy thing I could think about was a big bowl of creamy, salty grits mingling with tender sauteed collard greens.
(What can I say? I have a love affair with food.)
Imagine my delight, then, when I got to the end of the book and discovered that the author had included the recipe for the casserole!
Alas, though, the ingredient list would have made Paula Deen blush with shame. Two cups of whipping cream! Two sticks of butter! Two and a half cups of Parmesan cheese! And I haven’t even gotten to the bacon…
Being the southern food fan that I am, though, I already had my heart irretrievably set on a grits n’ greens casserole. (Preferably one that wouldn’t send me immediately into cardiac arrest.)
So I found a lighter recipe in Eating Well magazine and toyed with it until it was vegan, gluten free, and even more delicious than the novel’s hunky hero. I’ve even included a McDougall-friendly variation in the recipe notes, so everyone can enjoy. (Get more McDougall-friendly recipes here.)
Of course, this collard greens casserole is healthy too. But given its roots, I think we should stick to how hot and irresistible it is, don’t you?
- ½ c pecans, chopped (1½ oz)
- ½ tsp Cajun seasoning or ⅛ tsp salt
- cooking spray (can skip if you don't mind a little sticking around the top)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- water as needed
- 4 c low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
- 1 large bunch collard greens (1½ lbs before trimming) OR 1-lb bag of frozen collard greens (see Notes)
- 1 c grits (not instant)
- ¼ c almond or cashew butter
- ¼ c salsa
- salt to taste
- Prep your baking dish: Coat a 2-quart (8-inch square) casserole dish with cooking spray.
- Prep the topping: In a small bowl, sprinkle chopped pecans with water and toss. Add Cajun seasoning and toss until evenly coated.
- Prep your collard greens: Wash, remove stems, and chop into small pieces.
- Coat a large pot with cooking spray. Over medium-low heat, add onion and cook for 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a splash of water as needed to prevent sticking. Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and onion is just starting to brown.
- Add 1 c broth, turn heat to high. When broth is bubbling, add greens and stir until wilted and volume is reduced by at least half. (About 2 minutes.)
- Turn heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, until greens are very tender. Stir occasionally, adding water as needed if pot looks dry.
- Remove greens from heat and drain in a colander, pressing out any extra liquid with the back of a spoon.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- While greens are cooking, in a covered medium pot, bring remaining 3 c broth to a boil. Remove lid and add grits slowly, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continuing to whisk, bring mixture to a simmer. Turn heat to low and, stirring constantly with a spoon, cook 4-5 minutes or until grits are thickened.
- Remove grits from heat. Gently stir in nut butter, salsa, and salt to taste.
- Using a heat-safe rubber spatula, spread half the grits in the bottom of the casserole dish. Add the greens, flattening with a spatula. Add the remaining half of the grits, smoothing the top with a spatula.
- Sprinkle with seasoned pecans.
- Bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Enjoy!
TO MAKE AHEAD: Up to 24 hours in advance, make casserole through step 10, omitting topping. When ready to serve: Prepare topping, sprinkle over top of casserole, and bake at 400F for 20 minutes (pecan topping) or 30 minutes (cornflake topping), or until heated through and topping is lightly toasted.
TO USE FROZEN GREENS: Skip step 3. In step 5, don't worry about reducing volume; just return greens to a simmer.
So, do you have any favorite fiction-inspired food? How about recommendations for funny romance novels? Leave a comment and do tell!