Sautéed Winter Squash over Jalapeño-Cheese Grits: Demonstrated at Athens Farmers Market

Sautéed Winter Squash over Jalapeño-Cheese Grits: Demonstrated at Athens Farmers Market

Here’s the dish my grandson August and I demonstrated at the Athens Farmers Market this morning, October 5th. All the vegetables we used we purchased from the local farmers’ stands at the Market.

Prepare the grits first, and keep them warm while sautéing the squash. The recipes serve six-eight people.

Jalapeño-Cheese Grits:
1 cup milk
3-1/2 cups water (or 3 cups water plus 1/2 cup white wine)
1 cup stone-ground grits (Georgia, and yellow, preferred)
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon grated black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

In a heavy pan, bring milk and water (or water plus wine, if used) to a boil, being careful they don’t boil over. Stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, add the grits in a thin stream. Reduce heat to medium, and continue to stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot, as the grits begin to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the minced jalapeño, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to the lowest, cover the pot and simmer, stirring from time to time, until grits are becoming tender, 20 minutes or more depending on the grits used. Stir in the cheese. Taste, and add a little salt if necessary. Continue to simmer (or place the pot in a larger pan with an inch of boiling water to serve as a hot water bath as they simmer) until ready to serve, stirring from time to time and adding a little water if becoming thick. The longer the grits simmer the better. Before serving, do a final taste and adjust the salt, if necessary.

Sautéed Winter Squash or Pumpkin:
1 medium-large butternut squash or 2-pound piece of heirloom pumpkin (e.g., “Long Island Cheese” or French)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small-medium green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 very large clove garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 large tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup water (or white wine), plus more water as needed
6 medium-large fresh basil leaves, cut in half
2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
A little more grated cheese, or minced parsley, for garnish

Peel the butternut or other pumpkin/squash, cut it across into 3/4-inch slices, scooping out the seed cavity when you get to that part. Cut the flesh into 3/4-inch chunks. Fry (sauté) these gently in a large pan with the olive oil, stirring frequently. Meanwhile prepare the other vegetables as indicated, keeping the tomato separate.

A sample at the Athens Farmers' Market
When the squash is just starting to become tender (test with a toothpick), add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño. Add the salt and pepper, and sauté the mixture, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the bell pepper and onion become tender. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and sauté about 2 minutes, stirring carefully several times. Add half a cup of water and sauté briefly until the vegetables are tender. The mixture should be slightly wet. If not, add a little water to moisten. Taste several bits of vegetable and stir in a little salt, if needed. Remove from the heat, and stir in the basil and grated cheese.

To Serve
Spread a portion of grits on a plate. Spoon some of the squash mixture over it. Sprinkle with either a little grated cheese or minced parsley.

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