a grits revelation

Being from the south, I know grits. And I like grits. [Side note: I feel like I should throw in a Ya’ll or two here, but I’ll resist.]

Anyhoo…I’ve never actually made grits. I confess that in the distant past, I have microwaved a package of instant grits for my kids, but only once or twice. A long time ago. Before I turned over this new culinary leaf.
creamy grits with pulled pork
Grits have become very popular it seems. I’ve seen lots of recipes for creamy grits, and I’ve seen them show up more frequently on restaurant menus. The best brand according to all the hype is Anson Mills. For my first try at making grits, I really wanted to make the Anson Mills variety, but none of the local markets here carry them. I was able to find a brand in the local Fresh Market called Charleston’s Own, so I decided to go with those. What the heck.

Given that it was a work-day, I put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker (following this recipe from Better Homes & Gardens) first thing in the morning, and I worked on the grits when I came home. For the creamy grits, I semi-followed this recipe from Gourmet magazine. [Another side note:  I really, really, really miss that magazine.]
pulled pork with creamy stone ground grits
And these grits were the best grits I’ve ever eaten. The pulled pork was juicy and had some heat to it at the finish, and the creaminess of the grits was the perfect counterbalance to that heat. My husband — who told me just as I was serving it up, “You know, I don’t really like grits,” — really enjoyed the entire dish, grits included.

Never, ever again will I tear open and microwave a package of instant grits. I’m a stone-ground grits convert.

expanding my horizons: the blood orange

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but up until this past weekend, I had never tasted a blood orange. Yes, I live in Florida, where the state fruit is the orange, and the state flower is the orange blossom. However, blood oranges are not native to Florida. So there. I don’t feel so bad now.
trio of blood orange slices
I think part of me was always worried about stains, too. I’m sort of peculiar that way. It’s the same reason I’ve never eaten a fresh pomegranate.
trio of blood orange slices
Verdict? My daughter and I really liked the subtle sweetness of the blood orange. It was really easy to peel, and it sections beautifully. My son refused to eat something that color. My husband wouldn’t wake up from his nap to try it.
blood orange slices

making takeout at home, pizza version

There’s something comforting about a slice of deep dish pizza. Nearly every weekend, we order takeout from one of our local pizzerias. Paired with a good movie and a glass of wine, it makes for a perfect Saturday evening.
it's done

Our town has a few places known for their pizza. Leonardo’s makes a Chicago-style pie, and when we lived on that side of town, we were regulars. Satchel’s is probably the most locally-famous with loyal followers who proudly display Satchel’s bumper stickers on their cars. I’m sad to say that, although we’ve lived here since 2001, we’ve only been to Satchel’s once. We took our then-2 year old daughter, and we made the mistake of arriving about 15 minutes before her regular dinner time. The wait for food was probably 45 minutes. By the time the pizza came, we were so frazzled from dealing with an impatient – and loud – 2 year old that I can’t even remember anything about the meal itself. We haven’t been back. Our new favorite, partly due to location, but mostly due to their quality pizza, is Blue Highway Pizza. Our standby? The Sicilian pepperoni, a rectangular thick-crust pan pizza that always yields enough for leftovers.

Since the weekends are when I can spend time cooking, I decided to use Saturday to make a deep dish pizza from scratch. I’ve never made pizza crust dough, and while it would be really easy to pick up some dough at Publix, the idea of making the dough myself was appealing. I cheated a bit, though. I bought King Arthur Flour’s pizza crust kit. I still got to add yeast, and I was able to use my KitchenAid stand mixer with the dough hook for kneading the dough. I had forgotten how wonderful that yeasty dough smell is.

For the sauce, I modeled it after Mike’s Pizza Sauce from Last Night’s Dinner. I used a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, a couple of cloves of garlic, some olive oil, an onion, and a bit of dried oregano, basil, and kosher salt. I would have loved some larger tomato pieces, but my husband is anti-tomato, so I’ve learned to compromise. Petite diced canned tomatoes are okay, but regular diced tomatoes are not. You get the picture. The sauce was good, but next time I’ll add some red pepper flakes to give some heat.
ready to bake

Toppings are always a compromise when you live with picky eaters (i.e, everyone in this house but me). I went with good-ol’ pepperoni, but on half of the pie I added diced green bell pepper. And, thinking the kids would not be able to tell them apart from the red tomato sauce, I added some chopped red bell pepper. But they could tell. They’re smarter than I gave them credit for, as usual.

The verdict? The husband and I really liked it. My 6 year old daughter liked it, and she even ate some of the red bell pepper (it’s sweet, you know). My 3 year old son refused to eat a single bite. It was fun making our usual Saturday night meal instead of ordering it from the pizzeria. I’m not sure I saved us much money, but it’s always a great feeling to know where your food comes from and how it was prepared.