This golden and delicious dish personifies fall. Whether you serve it for breakfast or brunch, as tapas, or as a side dish, it is sure to satisfy as a warm and comforting ode to autumn. When I was growing up, my family probably ate cheese grits for breakfast on more Sundays than not. When I became vegan, I learned that cheesy grits need not be a faint and distant childhood memory, thanks to nutritional yeast. For this recipe, I make the grits even more creamy and golden, with just a hint of smoke and savory sweetness, by incorporating coconut creamer, smoked paprika, vegan butter, and pureed pumpkin. The creaminess of the grits is perfectly set off by crunchy pepitas lightly toasted with more nutritional yeast, salt, and just a hint of maple syrup. For some recipes, the garnish is nice, though not necessary. But for this one--though I would still make the dish even if I didn't have fresh sage growing in the garden--I feel it that tiny, tender and very young sage leaves add the perfect finishing touch to balance and accent all of the other flavor notes.
Smokey Pumpkin Grits With Maple-Roasted Pepitas [Vegan]
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup coconut creamer
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or more to taste
- 3/4 cup quick-cooking (not instant) grits
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup vegan butter
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin (canned works great)
- Maple-Roasted Pepitas
- Garnish: small, young and very tender fresh sage leaves
- Optional accompaniment if serving as tapas: slices of nice, firm fall tomatoes, Roma if possible
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 3/4 cup lightly salted and roasted and pepitas
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 to 3 teaspoons real maple syrup
- Sea salt to taste
- In a 2-quart saucepan, bring water , coconut creamer, and salt to a rapid boil.
- Slowly whisk in grits and reduce heat to medium or medium-low.
- Cover and cook, whisking occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Add smoked paprika, butter, nutritional yeast, and pureed pumpkin and cook, whisking frequently, for 2 more minutes or until thick, creamy and heated through. Check for salt and adjust if necessary.
- Serve hot topped with one-fourth of the pepitas and a garnish of fresh sage leaves. Or, if serving as tapas, spoon a dollops of grits over slices of Roma tomatoes, top each with a few pepitas, garnish with fresh sage leaves, and serve.
- Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add pepitas and toast, stirring continually for about a minute.
- Add nutritional yeast, stir well, and continue stirring and cooking for 30 seconds. Add maple syrup and do the same. Check for salt, adjust if necessary, and remove pepitas from the heat.