Rib sticking, tummy warming healthy goodness. We dine on this from before the frost hits the pumpkin until May’s sun warms the mornings.
We met up with friends in the little coastal town of Laguna Beach a few years back because they told us we had to, seriously must, go to this very cool restaurant called Zinc’s to eat their oatmeal. How many times in your life has someone asked you to go out for, that’s right, oatmeal? So our anticipation grew as they told us all about this amazing butterscotchy oatmeal and the beautiful presentation and how creamy and rich and tasty it was. “Really, you’ve NEVER had anything like it!”, said he. We walked to the corner restaurant on a beautiful mid-week early morning and lined up behind, no kidding, about 30 hungry bodies waiting to obtain this amazing “porridge”. And it was – amazing. Let me try to recapture it: gentle breeze, black wrought iron fence around a stone patio and a little kiosk where you ordered. In the same building was a gourmet shop/bakery/deli, but it was empty as people waited for their porridge. It actually reminded me of people waiting in line to take communion-a ceremonial sober hush was upon them. As I got closer I saw thick porridge being ladled generously into shiny pure white enormous bowls. Choices of fresh berries and an assortment of dried fruits and nuts, as well as yogurt were options right along with the traditional brown sugar and cream. I’d never seen anything like it as the happy diners pulled out $7 for a bowl of …gruel? Porridge. Oatmeal made from steel cut oats…which, obviously must cost much much more than mother’s oats, right? I ordered mine with fresh blueberries and plain yogurt and streamed a bit of local honey on top. It was heavenly and filling and I knew my grandmother and her mother’s mother’s mother would be proud of me. My husband and I talked about it for days.
How could a bowl of porridge garner seven bucks? I did a little homework and figured out that even if I bought those pristine white bowls, four of them, from Williams Sonoma or Crate and Barrel or even Target and bought the most expensive oats I could find it would still be lowly porridge and should cost around a buck a bowl. That’s inspiring, isn’t it? That here in America, where presentation is more than half the battle, someone can become wealthy making porridge. Believe it or not when searching the internet and you’re on something like page 9 of – steel cut oatmeal – you can actually find some pretty interesting things. Who’d a thought I’d find what looked like a great recipe on the Parkinson’s Disease support group website?
The secrets’ about to come out folks. Here goes. Oh, and it IS cheap. Cheap isn’t something to take lightly these days. It costs more to make a phone call to see if the grocer carries steel cut oats than it does to make it.
1 Cup Steel Cut Oats (Bob’s Red Mill is top flavor/texture rated and inexpensive)
2 Cups water
1 Cup milk
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (I grate from whole nutmeg)
Slowly heat milk and water to almost, but not, boiling in a medium sized saucepan.
In medium size saute pan or cast iron pan melt 1 Tablespoon butter. Add the cup of oats and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the oats start to turn a toasty golden color and smell butterscotchy. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and stir another minute to fuse the flavors.
Lower heat to low, add the dried fruits to the porridge and let it cook for another 10 minutes, maybe more until it starts to really look like something. Be careful because at this point it can stick to the bottom easily and so you’ll need to stir from the bottom up.
You will know the oatmeal is ready when it starts to be pretty thick, but don’t expect all the liquid to be absorbed. It will continue to soak in the liquid once it’s in the crockery and on the counter. But generally it should look like this:
To serve, spoon into a bowel and I like to add chopped apples, a little brown sugar and milk or cream. It is scrumptious with fresh fruit, a dollop of yogurt and honey too!Just look at that! Isn’t it beautiful? I bet even children would think so. Well I know for a fact that even the staunchest I-hate-oatmeal person likes this. And there are some good reasons to try this recipe: oats help reduce cholesterol, are filling, higher in protein and are known to aid in weight loss.
Stay tuned for homemade muesli next month. We switch to that for warm summer mornings when a bowl of something hot no longer appeals.