Coconut Miso Polenta Bowls
Satisfying the craving for grits
Served hot and topped with green beans seared in sesame oil, olive oil and salt and pepper seasoned baked then pan fried tofu, pickled red onion, cilantro sauce, freshly grated raw beets, and tahini drizzle.
As for necessity, living in a tiny town that’s miles away from other tiny towns that are hours away from any major metropolitan area (which could describe almost the entire state of South Dakota and much of the northern Great Plains in general) taught me that I can satisfy any craving I might ever have, so long as I’m willing to cook.
This dish has since become a staple in my repertoire, a recipe I don’t really think of as a recipe, more a set of guidelines that form the foundation of a meal. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. The base is only made up of 4 ingredients (one of which is water), but the flavor is bold.
1 - 2 tbsp miso
1 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
2 - 3 cups water
1 cup fine grain corn meal (if using larger grits, cook for longer)
Combine the miso and coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil, occasionally whisking. Add 1 - 2 cups of water to a liquid measuring cup and combine with the corn meal, stirring into a fine slurry without any clumps. Once the coconut milk and miso mixture is boiling, whisk continuously until the miso is fully dissolved. Once dissolved, add the corn meal slurry mixture and whisk continuously while doing so. Continue to whisk until the mixture is too thick to whisk, then turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for approximately 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the grain of your grits/corn meal. Add salt to taste if needed, but wait until the end - the miso is usually enough.
Serve with sauerkraut, tahini drizzle, sauteed or roasted veg of your choosing, a handful of nuts and seeds for crunch, pan fried tofu, legumes, and/or white bean gravy, sesame oil drizzle, or soy sauce. Hot sauce optional (if you’re going for store bought, Valentina or Cholula all the way, if you’re going for homemade, you should give fermented rhubarb a try).
(Psstttt…. speaking of fermented rhubarb hot sauce, you can find the recipe for it THE RHUBARB EDITION of the Eat Rooted zine. The first edition dives into all things rhubarb - its history, growing practices, and sweet and savory ways to use the plant. Join us on an adventure that circumnavigates the globe as we follow rhubarb through her long and tumultuous history. After the journey, pick up some rhubarb from a local farm (or your own garden) and join us in the kitchen as we celebrate some of the many ways to enjoy this plant).
This recipe emerged sometime in 2020, in my kitchen in South Dakota, born out of craving and necessity. The craving was for grits; while I’ve never lived in the South and have spent only minimal time in the southern states, a friend and former roommate was raised in North Carolina and would wax rhapsodical about their dad’s shrimp & grits. The best thing about grits - so I’m told - is the butter, and while over 15 years of veganism have absolved any flavor craving I might ever have for the stuff, it does lend a certain mouthfeel to dishes. Enter miso and coconut milk - coconut milk for fattiness (and for flavor) and miso for a salty umami-ness that together make this a delectable breakfast, lunch, dinner - it’s fast, easy, and filling, perfect for any time of day or night.