Fiesta in a Casserole Dish

“Can you help me search for a recipe? I want to make a vegetarian dish to bring to the lock-in,” Kyle says to me Friday afternoon.

Not one to turn down a recipe search, I accepted the challenge.

My first, and as it turned out, final, stop was the vegetarian section of Simply Recipes. I’ve followed Elise’s blog for years. Everything I’ve ever made from her website has turned out beautifully. Whenever someone asks me for a recipe reference, I point them in the direction of her site. So when Kyle asked me for a vegetarian recipe, I linked him her Polenta Casserole recipe. Little did I know that this would spark my own creative juices flowing.

Once I started digging through my pantry and fridge, I realized I didn’t have half of her listed ingredients. Never fear! Its in my DNA to substitute everything and anything in a recipe. Really, my mom does it, my Grandma does it… we’ve been trying for years upon years to recreate Grandma’s spaghetti sauce recipe. We still haven’t figured it out.

Mom says she spits in her sauce… I’ll bet that’s the secret…

Anyway, I pinched here, tweaked there, added some sauteed pork and came out with a Mexican inspired casserole recipe. Deliciouso!

Mexican Grits Casserole
1 pork chop, seared in a hot pan with celery salt and pepper and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 vidalia onion, chopped
1 large pablano pepper, chopped
1/2 cup kale, chopped
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (I used dried shitake, since that’s all I had on hand)
4 garlic cloves, minced and divided in half
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
3 cups water
1 cup grits
1 cup grated cheese (just use your favorite, I used Mexican melting cheese)
Celery salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and saute onion, kale, pablano and mushrooms, seasoned with celery salt and pepper, until onion starts to turn clear and kale starts to shrink down. Add in tomatoes, pork and 2 garlic cloves. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, brush an 8×8 glass baking dish with canola oil and set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add in garlic and a pinch of celery salt. Reduce heat to low, whisk in grits and cook until thick and cooked through. Be sure to wear socks during this step of the recipe… I burnt my foot from the spluttering grits!!

In prepared baking dish, spread 1/3 of the tomato mixture. Pour half the grits mixture on top of the tomato mixture, smoothing into corners. Sprinkle the grits layer with cheese. Repeat this process again, then top with the last bit of tomato sauce. I had a little cheese leftover, so I just piled it on top of the last layer.

Bake about 25 to 30 minutes and let cool about 15 minutes before serving. Like real live lasagna, this dish tastes delicious after sitting for a few days in the fridge.

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