23 June 2013

On Ease and Essential Olive Oil Granola

Hi all. I wanted to share a couple of things today and then end with a recipe I think all granola lovers can add to their arsenal. It can be memorized and should be, and the entire thing can be prepped in a few minutes with very little on the front of prep bowls by the way. There's just some plopping and mixing and spreading on a tray. No heating of anything, except the oven. And you'll be glad, as the weather begins to get hotter, by the way, that you have a jar of this on your window sill in the mornings.

It's sort of like the south over here in the shadow of the city right now. Is "on ease" a coined phrase or not? Well, it's certainly better than "on edge," huh? I've been mulling over iced Americanos and finishing up Boardwalk Empire season 3 and eating (well not all by myself) another batch of these and reading the book in the picture above. It's great so far and I recommend it for any Pollan fan or cooking aficionado. Let me quote, albeit from the introduction:

"How is it that at the precise historical moment when Americans were abandoning the kitchen, handing over the preparation of most of our meals to the food industry, we began spending so much of our time thinking about food and watching other people cook it on television? The less cooking we were doing in our own lives, it seemed, the more that food and its vicarious preparation transfixed us...this very activity that many people regard as a form of drudgery has somehow been elevated into a spectator sport...I don't need to point out that what you're watching on TV being cooked is not food you get to eat."

I couldn't agree more with this observation. And so....more on the subject when I finish the book!

Right now I'm only on the first chapter, about fire: the origins of the heat source that would be the essential tool for the transformation of raw to cooked food.

I suppose then, something reading the book has me thinking about, is the theme of ease. How one ingredient, transformed through heat, can satisfy. Pollan has another's quote, on the first page of the chapter on Fire:

"Roasting is both nothing at all and absolutely everything." -Marquis de Cussy,  L'Art Culinaire

On the note of simplicity, here's a recipe for an essential, easy-to-put-together, olive oil granola. I think it's extraordinary, and it lends itself to adaption with whatever you have on hand. I'm always making granola and have tried differnt fat/sweetener combos: butter and honey, butter and maple syrup, butter and honey and maple syrup, olive oil and honey, and... olive oil and maple. I started using olive oil once when I didn't have enough butter on hand and kind of haven't looked back. I think the olive oil and maple wins for texture and even baking as well as flavor depth. It gives it a great crispness, too.

There was quite a buzz about using olive oil instead of butter for granola last year or so, with Melissa Clark's recipe in the NY Times. She also uses coconut and lots of different nuts and seeds. I tend to not have coconut on hand too often and so I have adapted this to a much more smallish batch featuring pepitas and almonds as the nuts, spice it with cinnamon and vanilla, skip the coconut, and sprinkle on raisins in the end. It's a lovely thing to have in your arsenal and easy to memorize. The measurements below will yield 3-ish cups, enough for yogurt topping for a few people for a few days. Feel free to double it!

It's the kind of thing I'll stick in the oven after dinner while it's still hot, and I'm cleaning up and can check on it. The original recipe also included brown sugar but I don't even find it necessary.

Have a great night everyone : )

Olive Oil Granola (adapted from NYT)

1 1/2 cups (115 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cups (80 grams) raw nuts and/or seeds (almonds and pepitas were my choice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup raisins
coarse salt + granulated sugar for finishing, optional

Preheat the oven to 300 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl mix together oats, nuts, salt and spices. Whisk together olive oil and maple syrup and vanilla, pour over the oat mixture, and stir well until very evenly coated. Spread the mixture onto the prepared pan and pat into a single layer. Bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the oats are toasty and lightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with a few generous pinches of salt and sugar, if using, then the raisins, and stir to combine. When the granola has cooled completely, store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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