For many southerners, grits aren’t grits unless they are finished off with ample butter before serving. I get it, butter does deepen flavor and add creaminess, but my vegan version truly competes with “traditional” grits any day. The first step to creating rich, silky grits is soaking them in liquid overnight. Remember, grits are dried, ground corn kernels, and reconstituting them before cooking makes them creamier (and decreases cooking time). Cashew cream added towards the end of cooking yields velvety grits with deep flavor. Use blue corn grits if you can find them. The grits will turn a spectacular light periwinkle color.
Put the grits in a medium bowl. Add 3 cups of vegetable stock and mix to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Put the cashews in a small bowl, cover with water, and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to overnight.
Drain cashews and transfer to a blender with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water. Pulse, then blend until smooth, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Set aside.
Skim any hulls or chaff that have risen to the top of the grits’ soaking liquid, then pour the grits and the liquid into a medium saucepan. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking continuously until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, whisking occasionally until the grits have absorbed most of the liquid and begin to thicken, 2 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the remaining cup of vegetable broth and continue to simmer, whisking occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes more.
Stir the cashew cream into the grits, cover, and simmer over low heat, whisking frequently, until the grits are soft and fluffy, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The grits should be slightly firm and creamy. If the grits firm up too much before serving, stir in 1 Tbs. of water at a time to reach desired consistency.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set aside. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spring onions to the pot and blanch for 1 minute. Using tongs, remove the spring onions and immediately plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking and set their color. Transfer the spring onions to a clean kitchen towel, gently pat dry, and set aside.
Heat a grill to medium-high (400°F to 475°F). Lightly oil the grill grates.
Place the oil and 1/4 tsp. salt in a large bowl and mix well. Add the spring onions, tossing to coat. Line up the spring onions side by side on a cutting board and thread about 5 skewers, one at a time, crosswise through all the spring onions at even intervals. Grill the spring onions, turning them several times with tongs, until starting to char, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
When cool to the touch, remove the skewers.
To serve, divide the grits among bowls, and top with the spring onions. Add hot sauce and a few grinds of pepper to taste.
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