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Hearth Cooking: Soup, Grits and Beets

I know there's little that's more obnoxious than a Californian complaining about the cold but here goes: This last weekend was too cold. At my place, it hit 30F. I know, it's likely to have been colder where you are but we're just not set up for this here. My place came with a wood burning stove, which is dandy when I'm at the house for long stretches but it's been a pain learning how to use it properly and it's very messy. I was almost considering getting rid of it but after this weekend, I'm thinking twice. As the fire raged this weekend, I thought I should take advantage of the top so I brought out my clay pieces and started cooking. In the photo above, starting on the left, there's a pot with grits in it. I used "artisinal" grits that have been sitting in my refrigerator. They're excellent but grits aren't a part of my daily life so I was happy to use them. I didn't quite know what to do so I made them with one part grits to 4 parts water, with salt and a knob of butter. Next up is a soup pot from Vulcania in Tuscany and I used it to reheat some soup that I'd made previously. Next are the small clay mugs for michelada that I filled with water to keep the air moist and I ended up needing for the grits, which needed more liquid. I also had 4 beets wrapped in foil but I left them in for too long and they seemed to almost disintegrate. One was OK and delicious beyond belief. I am doing this again but keeping an eye on things next time. The grits were terrific. On the advice of a friend, I stirred in some cheese at the end. I had goat cheddar. It was fine. This morning I added some sugar and milk to the plain (cheese-less) leftovers, trying to recreate a sweet dish I've had with polenta. The polenta was better but this was a nice breakfast, at least as nice as oatmeal. The soup was a bunch of leftovers: beans, dandelion greens, wild rice, potatoes and good stock. It was ugly but delicious. I'm not going to go nuts about this, but I am looking forward to the next cold snap, fire and lazy Sunday.

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