on the path of healing: manchego cheese grits

One week ago, I wrote about my father’s hospitalization. In the days since, the outpouring of well-wishes and prayers for my dad — and for me and my mom — has been overwhelming. I may not have responded to each and every comment or message, but please know that I read them all at least once, and often more than a few times. Each message meant so much to me.

Thank you all so very much for being there for us.

My dad’s surgery on Monday went well. While my mom and I waited patiently – and sometimes not so patiently – a team of neurosurgeons removed a benign tumor from my dad’s brain. The tumor had bled, causing acute swelling of that area, which led to all of his symptoms and inability to walk without falling over. After spending three nights in the intensive care unit and another two nights on the regular neurosurgical floor, he was discharged to a rehabilitation hospital yesterday. Because the cranial nerve controlling balance on the left was destroyed, he will undergo intensive physical therapy to learn to be able to walk by himself, without falling. He is definitely on the path of healing.

I’ve spent a lot of time sitting by my dad’s hospital bed this past week. Much of that time he dozes on and off, occasionally rousing to ask a question about my kids or about my husband. Or about college sports. Or to complain about the hospital food. Even though I’m not physically doing much to care for him — the very patient and kind hospital staff are doing all the heavy work — I go to bed each night completely wiped out. My brain and body have hit their limit this week.

Stress makes me crave my kitchen, and comfort food is what I want to make under those conditions. For some reason, maybe because I live in the south or maybe because I’ve seen two recent blog posts that had me inspired (this one by Kelly and this one by Tami), I wanted to make grits. I wanted to eat grits.

Today my desire for grits was fulfilled. I generally use whatever brand of stone ground grits I can find in my specialty grocery. Nine times out of ten, it’s Charleston Favorites. I always rinse the grits first, pouring off any sediment that rises to the top. Some combination of milk and water – and of course, butter – makes these grits creamy and smooth.

I am not a fan of cheese grits, but I think it’s because most cheese grits are made with cheddar cheese. I’m not particularly fond of cheddar, or any yellow cheese for that matter. I added just a touch of finely grated Manchego cheese to this dish, and it gave it a nice subtle flavor that upped the power of these grits.

For lunch today, I topped the Manchego cheese grits with a sauté of chicken sausage and cherry tomatoes. I may or may not have had two servings. My cat, Mitzi, licked the dish when I was done. She highly approves of these grits.

I feel better already.

Yield: 8 side dish servings

Manchego Cheese Grits

I always rinse stone-ground grits to remove any sediment. To rinse them, put the grits into a bowl and cover with water. Any loose sediment will rise to the top. Pour off as much of the water (with sediment) as possible, and you’re done. These grits are good at any time of the day – for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cup milk (at least 2%)
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning to taste
1 cup white stone-ground grits, rinsed
2 ounces Manchego cheese, finely grated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a heavy bottom saucepan, bring water, milk, and half-and-half to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in the rinsed grits. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Turn heat down to medium-low and stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes. Simmer, stirring often, until grits have reached the desired thickness, 20-30 minutes. Add the Manchego cheese and stir well until the cheese has been fully incorporated. Turn off heat and stir in butter. Season to taste with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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13 Responses to “polenta with pear, gorgonzola, and pine nuts”

  1. 1
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    Dawn Hutchins — December 16, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

    Loving this mixture! And I can sympathize. I had the same problem but I’ve gotten a lot more adventurous!

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    Barbara @ Vino Luci Style — December 16, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

    I love this book even if years of cooking have made me more and more adventurous; inspiration comes in so many forms; why not a Bible! These look and sound fantastic. I just love pears and Gorgonzola together in almost any manifestation but sounds perfect with the two P’s!

  3. 3
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    Joy — December 16, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

    The stars are so festive and sweet! Good for you for becoming more adventurous. All of our experimenting was borne out of food intolerances and never having the right ingredient! I think it really takes something to push you to learn, whether it’s just a love of food or trying to be healthy and use whole food.

  4. 4
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    Susan — December 16, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

    So pretty, so clever, and such a nice fit of flavors! Gee those guys who wrote that book seem to know what they’re talking about!

  5. 5
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    Brian @ A Thought For Food — December 16, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

    I love your little polenta stars! They are so bright and beautiful… and so very wonderful to nibble on.

    Great, creative post!!!

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    Nancy@acommunaltable — December 16, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

    I hope you are proud of yourself!! These are beautiful and I know they taste fabulous!!!
    I have been cooking for over 20 years and The Flavor Bible is also one of my favorite books – it’s a wonderful resource tool and a great way to check potential flavor combinations.

  7. 7
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    Tes — December 17, 2010 @ 4:39 am

    The dish looks so stunning. It is such an inspiration. I love the combination of pear and pine nuts. It sounds so delightful 🙂

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    Gail — December 17, 2010 @ 6:38 am

    Oh my. I don’t think I could have even waited to cut the stars out…..What a fantastic dish! I would have just cooked the polenta, added the everything to it, and sat down with a big bowl of pear, gorgonzola & pine nut comfort porridge. MMMMmm…

    And, can we talk about the scientific mind, please? That’s a baker’s mind, you know.

    Just sayin’…..

  9. 9
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    Katie — December 18, 2010 @ 10:12 am

    Pretty! I love polenta and the fact that you shaped them like stars! YUM!

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    Chris — December 18, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

    I like how you peared the flavors together with this one. (ha ha ha ha….yeah, that was bad)

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — December 19th, 2010 @ 9:22 am

      Chris – You gave me a chuckle. 🙂

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    Kim at Life as a Foodie — December 18, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

    Oh, I’d love to get my hands on a copy of that book. I suspect my creativity in the kitchen would get much better as well. I don’t cook much and I place a lot of that blame on not knowing what to use, how to use it, when to use it, or how much to use. I want to cook more but I lack the creativity like you did.

    Thanks for the tip! I’ll have to check that out soon.

  12. 12
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    Sasha — December 18, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

    Wow, what a chic little appetizer. And great combination of flavors.

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