A very special “Hello” to all the Jacksonville Fresh family and friends! Yesterday was a big day – the market opened, and it was wonderful! I am so proud of my good friends Glenn and Jessie for all they are doing to make fresh produce, healthful options, and local vendors more accessible to all of us! And, I must mention the work they are doing to help families experiencing food insecurity is amazing! They are genuine and good people bringing good food and positive energy to our community…Love them!

So – in honor of the opening of the market, I combined some ingredients from the Fresh Box this week with my first shopping experience at Jacksonville Fresh for ingredients for this meal. I knew the contents of the Fresh Box and I was already leaning toward cooking something super traditional “southern” but then when I walked into the shop and saw the collard greens and green tomatoes, it all came together!

A Southern Meal

Prep Time:  30-45 Minutes

Cook Time: 30 Minutes (Grits) / 25 Minutes (Grape Tomatoes) / 20-30 Minutes (Collard Greens) / 20-30 Minutes (Veggie Fry Time) / 45 Minutes (Roasted Garlic)

Yields: 6 Servings

Ingredients (bold ingredients found in your Fresh Box or at Jacksonville Fresh Market/Shop this week):

  • 1 CUP Congaree & Penn, Purple Grits
  • 2 Garlic heads (whole)
  • 2 Garlic cloves (small mince)
  • 2 TBSP of Olive oil
  • 1 bottle of Canola oil (or favorite frying oil)
  • 6 TBSP of Butter (you can sub a vegan butter)
  • 2-4 TBSP of Salt (I use Coarse Kosher)
  • 1 TBSP of Black Pepper
  • 4 MEDIUM Green Tomatoes sliced ½ inch thick (3-4 slices from each tomato)
  • 1 – 1.5 Lbs. of Okra (whole)
  • 6 CUPS of Collard Greens (shredded/julienned)
  • 1 – 1.5 Lbs. of Grape Tomatoes
  • 6 Medium leaves of Basil (rough small chop)
  • 1 CUP of Cream (Almond or Hazelnut Cream/Milk would also be delicious)
  • 6-8 CUPS of Water

The order of things:

  • Preheat oven
  • Prep all veggies – wash/rinse, dry, cut
  • Roasted garlic takes the longest so start with it
  • Next start the grits and you can also start the collard greens in tandem
  • Then go ahead and put the tomatoes in the oven while your oil is heating to fry up those veggies.

Instructions for Roasted Garlic:  

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grab a small baking sheet and a small piece of aluminum foil.
  2. Cut the bottoms off the 2 heads of garlic, as well as the top tip. Leave the heads intact.
  3. Place the heads in the center of the aluminum foil and crinkle up the sides to create a cup or swaddle for the garlic. (see pic)
  4. Drizzle 1 TBSP of olive oil over the heads of garlic and sprinkle with black pepper and salt. Crinkle the foil so that it mostly encloses the garlic, place it on your pan and in the oven. Set your timer to 45 minutes.
  5. When the timer goes off, pull the garlic out of the oven, and set aside to cool.

Instructions for Collard Greens:

  1. Pull the leaves off your collard greens stalks. Clean greens thoroughly (sometimes they are a silly amount of sandy – luckily, the ones I got from the market were super clean!). After you clean them, dry them off as much as possible.
  2. Line up your leaves (similar to how you would when cutting sage leaves) and julienne into ¼ inch slices. (see pic)
  3. Heat up a sauté pan to medium heat.
  4. Add 2 TBSP of butter to the pan to melt and add 1 small minced garlic clove.
  5. Once you start to smell the garlic, add the 6 cups of julienned collard greens. Allow the greens to cook down, they will reduce in size by about half.
  6. At that point, add the cream.
  7. Simmer for about 20 minutes (careful not to burn the cream – keep the heat around medium/medium-low). The cream will thicken as it cooks and even more as it cools.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions for Buttery Roasted Garlic Purple Grits

  1. Boil 6 cups of water. Once it’s rumbling, add salt.
  2. Add 1 cup of grits slowly while stirring constantly. Be patient here…allow the grits to blend into the water while stirring.
  3. Cook the grits on medium-low for about 20 minutes. Stir the grits every few minutes. Add more water if needed.
  4. Once the grits are done, keep them on warm or low.
  5. Add the butter.
  6. Take the garlic cloves out of the 2 heads of garlic. (you can just squeeze them – they come right out) Then take a fork and mash the cloves until they make a pasty consistency. (a tiny sprinkle of coarse salt should help if any pieces are tough)
  7. Incorporate the roasted garlic into the grits. (it’s okay if there are a few visible pieces of the garlic)
  8. Add black pepper (you shouldn’t need to add salt if you seasoned the water enough and/or if you are using a salted butter – most vegan butters I’ve found are salted)
  9. Let the grits continue to simmer on warm/low for another 5 minutes. If you need to, add a bit more butter before serving.

Instructions for Roasted Grape Tomatoes:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prepare a baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Small mince 1 garlic clove.
  4. Rinse and dry grape tomatoes and lay them close together on the pan.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, black pepper, minced garlic, and chopped basil. (see pic)
  6. Put them into oven and set your timer for 25 minutes.
  7. Before you remove the tomatoes, make sure they have started to burst and brown. Once you see that, remove from oven, and set aside until plating. (see pic)

Instructions for Frying Up the Veggies:

  1. Instead of making my own fry coating, I was able to pick up some of the Fish Fry from Congaree & Penn at the Jacksonville Fresh market. Wowza y’all – that crunch though! Okay – let’s set up our fry station.
  2. Use a pan that can hold 1 – 2 cups of oil. Heat your oil (I don’t use a thermometer typically but if you do, I believe your oil should be around 350 degrees).
  3. You should have a shallow dish with water (or beer – I used one bottle of a dark lager) set up and another shallow dish with the Fish Fry.
  4. Dip the okra or tomato into water/beer and then into the Fish Fry and then drop into the heated oil.
  5. I fried the okra first because they are way more forgiving than fried green tomatoes in terms of soggying out.
  6. I put about 6-8 pieces of okra in the pan at a time. Take them out as soon as they start to float and brown. Put them on paper towels to drain off the grease and immediately sprinkle salt over the pieces before they cool off too much.
  7. Repeat the above steps 4-6 for the green tomatoes. You should be able to fit about 3-4 in the pan at a time.
  8. Be prepared with all the other elements of the dish so that you can serve immediately.

Plate it!

The crunch of the fry coating was so amazing. The access to so many delicious fresh, clean veggies is incomparable. The local vendor products are among some of the best there are. It was easy to make a tasty meal with so many great ingredients! The textures all worked in harmony. The crispiness of the veggies, the buttery smoothness of the grits, the velvety chew of the collard greens and the juicy pop of the roasted tomatoes were like a symphony of flavor! I know, cheesy…that’s me though…embrace it. LOL. Feelings of fullness, comfort and home embodied this dish. It was the perfect dish to complete an incredible weekend of activities, events and watching dreams come true…and I am so full…of gratitude and appreciation.