Eatin’ in Season

Living in Asheville has its perks. For instance, there's a wide array of farmers markets throughout the week in different locations around town — it's an eater's paradise! I have become so spoiled by some items available only at the market that I tend to get a little unsettled when I run out.

A taste of summer: Early basil leaves are popping up all over town.

Take Wayne's (Uffelman of Blue Hill Farm) grits, for example; I will not be able to go back to store-bought grits again. Wayne's corn is so flavorful on its own that very little sprucing up is needed, unlike some grits, which require about a pound of butter and salt to taste like anything. Not these grits — they are a horse of a different color.

One of my favorite ways to cook these versatile grits is into cakes, layered with local chevre, minced garlic and the season's first tender basil leaves.

Grit Cakes with Basil and Chevre: (serves 6-8 as a side)

2 cups artisan grits
7 cups water
1 cup fresh milk (or 1 additional cup water)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup plain chevre
About 12 large Genovese basil leaves, sliced thin
2 large garlic cloves, minced very fine

Having your cake: Grit cakes fried in butter make a decadent, delicious side dish. Photos by Rachel Brownlee

Heat liquid in a large, heavy pot and bring to a gentle boil. Slowly whisk in the grits. Immediately reduce heat to lowest setting. Add butter and some salt and pepper. Stir. Cover and cook until liquid is absorbed and grits are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally to keep grits from sticking to bottom of pot. Taste and adjust seasonings as grits cook.

Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour half of the cooked grits onto one side of the baking sheet. Spread evenly, creating a square of grits, leaving one half of the baking sheet empty. Sprinkle with goat cheese, garlic and basil. Spread the remaining grits over the top. Smooth out with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool before cutting into squares and serving with additional chopped basil for garnish.

Grit cakes can be stored covered in fridge. Reheat in a cast iron pan with a bit of butter to create a crispy outer crust. Incredible!

[Rachel Brownlee, CHC, AADP, is an avid gardener, kitchen wizard and blogger. You may view her nearly daily posts — often with fabulous recipes — at girlinanapron.blogspot.com.]

Go local: Blue Hill Farms grits can be found at local farmers markets, like the North Asheville Tailgate Market.
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