“There’s nothing I wouldn’t eat over grits and nothing I wouldn’t put in them. They are, to me, a perfect food,” writes Von Diaz in her new cookbook, Coconuts & Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South. The author, who was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Atlanta as a young child, first experienced grits at day care, where a teacher served them in a plastic bowl—instant and mushy. Only after a friend’s mother made proper grits slowly on the stove and let Diaz experiment with toppings—black pepper and cheddar cheese were her favorites—did she learn to love them.
Here is Diaz’s take on a Southern standard and a fusion of both cultures. She notes: “Whenever possible, use fresh homemade coconut milk. The grits are wonderful topped with Coconut-Braised Collards.”