The only problem for baking this wonderful dish that I found described on www.myrecipes.com was my okra supply. Baby okra abound—we’ll have a bumper crop in a few days—but we’re waiting for the next wave. I did manage to scrape together enough mature okra for 6 small fresh okra pods called for in this casserole, but I could have added twice that amount and felt even more indulged.
The original recipe on myrecipes.com (originally from Southern Living October 1999) was called Baked Polenta with Cheese and Okra—polenta being just another name for something made from boiled cornmeal. We speak grits around here, so I subbed a name that described the casserole’s ingredients.
I can’t describe what a big hit this made around my house. Grown daughter happened in for a visit. When I suggest she sample something I’ve just made for a blog, I always can see trepidation in her eyes. Another weird veggie combination? I can read in her thoughts. But when the words cheese grits and okra emerge from my mouth, she’s a willing volunteer.
This basically involves cooking quick grits on the stovetop, stirring in okra, cheese, butter, and egg, and then baking in a casserole for 55 to 60 minutes. Adding the okra keeps the casserole from being boring and works a very Southern veggie into a very Southern dish.
Baked Cheese Grits and Okra Casserole
4 cups water, divided
6 small fresh okra pods
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese (or 1 8-ounce block sharp Cheddar, cubed)
In a large saucepan over medium heat bring 2 cups water to a boil; add okra and cook 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove okra. Reserve liquid in pan. Cool okra slightly and coarsely chop. Add remaining 2 cups water to reserved liquid; bring to a boil. Gradually stir in grits and salt; return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 to 7 minutes. Gradually whisk about one-fourth of the grits into eggs; add this to remaining hot mixture. Whisk constantly. Whisk in butter. Stir in okra and cheese. Spoon into slightly greased 11-by-7-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes or until set. Makes 8 servings.