One of the first questions I am asked after someone finds out that I am from Southern Florida is, “so did you have alligators in your backyard?” No alligators but we did have a family of peacocks down the street. And by the way, there is a single peacock down the street where I live today on the other side of the continent. When I hear it call I am reminded of the days as kids we roamed the back alley behind our house trying to spy the birds and their eggs.
Florida today has become a melting pot of many cultures. Even the dynamics of the small agricultural towns have traces of a diverse population of people and foods. One of my favorite Southern breakfast foods is grits. It is similar to cream of wheat but a little grainier. It must be an inherited trait as most transplants cannot stand grits. Polenta is the Italian version of grits. They are both made of ground corn simmered in water until set. Grits are most commonly eaten as a side with breakfast while polenta may replace rice in main dishes. Polenta is also enjoyed baked or fried similar to a piece of bread.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 14-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 3-oz. can chopped green chiles
1 package (3-4 tablespoons) taco seasoning mix
Salt and Pepper
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup polenta
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1 C. shredded cheddar cheese
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, place the olive oil and onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the ground beef and brown; drain the fat.
Stir in the tomato sauce, black beans, water, green chiles and taco seasoning mix. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes.
Prepare the corn muffin mix according to package directions. Drop small spoonfuls of batter over the meat mixture in the skillet; don’t worry if there are some small uncovered places. Cover and cook over medium heat 15-17 minutes until the batter is cooked through.
Sprinkle the mixture with the cheese and green onion. Re-cover and cook 3-4 minutes over low heat until the cheese melts.