May 30th, 2016

Heirloom Grains, and Moving Musings


roasted cauliflower-vidalia onion ragu over blue corn grits and
sea island peas cooked in bay laurel over carolina gold rice


Bins, boxes, bubble wrap,
newsprint, packing tape, Sharpies.

Bit by bit, over the past weeks, moving mode has taken over, as I prepare to leave our home of sixteen years. While my mind churns, What will come with us? What will we sell? What will we give away? shelves and drawers begin to empty. Closets shed their contents. Sturdy cardboard boxes bound in wide tape line up along the walls. Bit by bit, the life force of this house ebbs away.

It’s a process, and through most of it, I’ve felt detached. It’s the best way to plow through the stuff you’ve been living with forever, all snippets of a bigger story. My friend Vicki calls it the house diary, and reviewing it can bring moments of pleasure.

One afternoon clearing out the secretary I found the menu from a little walk-up eatery in Mendocino that served the freshest tasting vegetable burrito I’d ever had. In a flash, I’m on that breezy rise overlooking the Pacific, limitless blue. Another day, a cache of my daughter’s elementary school art work surfaced, like her sweet Thanksgiving drawing of our green planet with her message “I am thankful for the world.”

Sometimes it’s caught me off guard, tapped into feelings deep within, a gush of grief, a pang of regret. Wrapping the little urn that contains photos and ashes of our cats, beloved and long deceased. Or coming across a random catering picture of me and Bill from 1993. We were so young. And I looked so pretty. Why did I not believe that about myself then?


Sorting through the house diary also entails closing out the kitchen pantry. My mission has been to use up those ingredients in the freezer or larder. Of late, I’ve been cooking with an assortment of heirloom grains and legumes I ordered from Anson Mills of Charleston South Carolina.

Do you know about this place, its mission and its products? Since the late ’90’s, Glenn Roberts has labored to repatriate the Southern pantry with heirloom grains once prominent and –due to corporate farming practices–passed over.


Carolina Gold rice, a specialty of the region revered for its plump texture and nutlike taste, had all but vanished. So had different strains of dent corn, which made the best tasting cornmeal and grits. On the wane, too, was the drought-resistant, protein-rich small red peas grown by the Gullah people of the Sea Islands dotting the Carolina coast. Reviving these southern foodways for us to enjoy now, and preserving them for future generations has been monumental work.


Treat yourself (they are pricey) to these heirlooms. The rice, which I cooked in a sofrito of onion, garlic, and sweet red bell pepper and vegetable broth was addictive. Each deep-flavored grain-separate- had satisfying mouth-feel. True gold. The Sea Island red peas, cooked simply as you would other dried beans in onion, garlic and bay leaf, had a delicate savory-sweet pop. Together, they rivaled any bowl of red beans and rice I’d ever dipped my spoon into.


As for the blue corn grits, a native American strain, I took care to follow the Anson Mills directions. The grits really benefit from a long soak and cook. Coarsely ground, my batch yielded a rich pebbled yet creamy texture. And what a color! When I topped it with the caramelized cauliflower-vidalia onion mixture—a tower of candy-sweet tastes—the result was so delicious, Bill and I could have been at Husk. Almost.



1 head cauliflower, washed, chopped or broken into florets
2 Vidalia sweet onions, peeled and cut lengthwise into eighths
several sprigs of fresh thyme
kosher or sea salt
coarse ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place cut pieces of cauliflower and onions in to a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Liberally coat with olive oil and spread out onto a baking sheet.
Place into the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, until pieces are browned and caramelized.



BLUE CORN GRITS (recipe adapted from Anson Mills)
1 cup Anson Mills Blue Corn Grits (or coarse grain white or yellow)
2 1/2 cups filtered water
2 cups vegetable broth
Fine sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the grits in a 3 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the water. Stir well and let the grits settle for a few minutes. The chaff and hulls will rise to the surface—skim and discard. Cover and let the grits soak at least an hour–or overnight at room temperature.

Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pan. Meanwhile, warm 2 cups of broth in a small saucepan. Every 10 minutes or so, uncover the grits and stir them; each time you find them thick enough to hold the spoon upright, stir in a small amount of the hot water, adding about 1½ cups water or more in 4 or 5 additions. Cook until the grits are creamy and tender throughout, but not mushy, and hold their shape on a spoon, about 50 minutes if the grits were soaked or about 90 minutes if they weren’t. Add 1 teaspoon of salt halfway through the cooking time. To finish, season to taste with salt and pepper.


Ladle grits into bowls. Mound each with roasted cauliflower-onion mixture. Sprinkle shredded pecorino and chives over the tops. Serves 4.


Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Vegan, Vegetarian Dishes

26 Responses to “Heirloom Grains, and Moving Musings”
  1. Johanne Lamarche Says:

    There was a time in my life when I moved every few years and it was always cathartic. I loved paring down possessions to the essential. Now approaching 20 years in this house and having become the keeper of family heirlooms of parents and grandparents departed for my own. sons, I can hardly conceive of packing up and moving on to a new phase in our lives. But we are geering up for it. Your post resonated with me so much Nancy. WIshing you much happiness in your new life adventures with big bowlfuls of this appetizing cauliflower vidalia hash over grits! A lovely hearty and nourishing dish.

  2. Ernestine Lawson Says:

    Thinking of you and many memories surface
    of many moves this one has made.
    Now it seems I have turned ancient and this year
    making gardens smaller and passing on a lot to
    This home built 8 years ago, small and now almost
    seems too much, never help in the past and might
    Oh your recipe looks so good and healthy.
    Best wishes for your new home and settling in..

  3. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Dear Johanne–thank you so much. this has felt a little daunting, but, as my daughter reminded me, “Mama you know you’ll get it all done!”

    Dear Ernestine,
    I have thought a lot about you and your move to the little cottage in the woods. I appreciate your sweet wishes.

  4. Heather Says:

    Nancy, these dishes look amazing! Thank you for the new resource, always great to know about heirloom grains. I can only imagine 16 years worth of house dairy pages.

  5. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Heather–I think that you’d love these. Explore the Anson Mills website; they offer many enticing ingredients.

  6. Gerlinde Says:

    After living for 28 years in my house I can just imagine having to sort through all my belongings and the memories that are there . Reading this lovely and heartfelt post of yours I will motivate me to clean out some of my drawers and closets.
    Wishing you the very best for your new beginnings and many healthy meals like your cauliflower and grits recipe.

  7. Cathy Says:

    Nancy, I love everything about this post. Your beans, grains and cauliflower dish is something I want to cook and devour. And it was bittersweet to read along as you sorted through accumulated belongings. I only wish you had shared with us Madeleine’s green planet and the picture of you and Bill! Best of luck with the move. I will be thinking of you.

  8. Wendy Zerface Says:

    This is such a beautiful heartfelt posting. Thank you for sharing.

  9. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Gerlinde, thanks so much. 28 years for you–oh, my. 16 years is the longest I’ve lived anywhere…so far. I told Bill that after this move, that’s it!

    Hi Cathy, I thought about posting pictures of those things–but it was one step too many. I’ll miss you in Louisville, but will look forward to seeing you and John later in the summer.

    Hi Wendy, you are welcome, dear friend.

  10. Juliana Says:

    Nancy, both recipes look fabulous…I love rice dishes therefore this one is calling for me. Blue grits sound intriguing…and I love that you topped it with cauliflower…such a contrast in colors…beautiful.
    Moving is always a mix of bitter sweet feeling…going through things that has been left untouched and so many memories…
    Best of luck my dear…

  11. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Juliana, I think you’d love this Carolina Gold rice. the flavor is special. thanks so much for your good wishes!

  12. Barbara Says:

    Love the idea of blue grits with cauliflower, Nancy. I’m drooling just looking at your photos!
    Just went through the moving downsizing thing….decided I had to be ruthless after the kids took their selected items. Good luck!

  13. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Ruthless-ain’t it the truth! Thanks, Barbara. In time, this piece of the journey will become a dim memory.

  14. Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Wonderful dishes amidst piles of boxes and memories. Life is so interesting and I am a believer in change will do you good! Most of our lives we spend collecting stuff and a small part getting rid of it! After our big move I have ever after been a minimalist…when something comes in something else goes out or is gifted to a friend who has admired it in the past.
    It is all good and refreshing and a new adventure.

  15. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    I smiled when you wrote that you could have been at Husk…a terrific restaurant and where I had my first taste of Carolina Gold rice. What delicious meals you created. I know what you are going through as we did the same thing last September when we made the move from New England to Florida. Good luck!

  16. Denise Says:

    The thought of moving usually prompts a clenched jaw, but you approach it so beautifully, with your calm sense of balance. Your demeanor often inspires me, Nancy. Thanks for being here and sharing these little parts of yourself. xx

  17. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Terese–thank you. we actually had fun doing the “estate sale” although it was totally draining. It feels very good to be emptying out…

    Hi Karen, Thanks for the kind words–you know exactly what all of this feels like.

    HI Denise, my pleasure. although my calm sense of balance has been challenged numerously in the process! thanks for being here too.

  18. Tammy Says:

    I’m sure the grains are terrific but I’m such a sucker for roasted cauliflower that nothing else matters. Best of luck with the move. Going far?

  19. Maureen May Says:

    Nancy, These grains and recipes sound wonderful (as all of yours are!) and thank you for letting us know about Anson Mills and these heirloom grains. Good to know how we can support people and companies helping to save them as it is important to protect what is left of our food diversity. You will be missed in our neighborhood and I wish you the very best in your new home.

  20. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Tammy-we are downsizing and staying in Nashville, ultimately moving a couple of miles from where we are now.

    Hi Maureen, no doubt I will miss the Belmont ‘hood. I have lived in three different houses over 42 years here. But this change will be a good one. I hope we’ll stay in touch!

  21. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    I just wanted to stop back by to say “hello” and see how your move went. I hope you are getting settled in and your new house is starting to “feel like home”. It takes a little while, especially when you have downsized and left many of the treasures behind.

  22. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    Nancy, having downsized and cleared out my mother’s home just a few years ago, I think I know exactly how you feel. All kinds of emotions can arise, but ultimately we get all the work done and look forward to new experiences. All the best to you and Bill.

  23. paulette Says:

    just seeing this now, Nancy. beautiful, beautiful, beautiful…and tasty!

  24. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hello All–this is me, simply bobbing up for air. It’s been kinda crazy, these past several weeks, and moving out of our home was about the hardest thing I can remember doing in a long time.

    Where we’ve been staying, so far in this nomadic interim, has no WiFi. I’ve been a little disconnected. But I do hope to resume blogging soon.


  25. Tammy Says:

    I cannot imagine going thru my house cupboard by cupboard and closet by closet – yet, that day will come. How far are you moving Nancy?

  26. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Tammy–we are staying in Nashville–moving closer to the urban core into a smaller house that we are building. the project is moving slowly—we are staying with a friend in the interim.

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