It is possible that cautious optimism that it will not always be winter is warranted.
The daffodils are ready to commit. The robins are back. The pesky birds nesting in the eaves outside the window by my bed are hard at work at sunrise every morning, 7 days per friggin week.
This is the time of year that I find I have grown entirely tired of eating, and cooking, and especially shopping for food. Before spring begins in earnest, here in the north east we are down to the bottom of the barrel of foods that have overwintered, like apples and squash, and despite our global economy (surely it is not winter all over the world?) all the produce in the market looks like it was dragged here behind the truck instead of inside it. Nothing imported looks good. Nothing local is up. We are sick of soup, and do not want to hear anyone talk about “seasonal eating” because this is the season when there isn’t much to eat.
It’s a good moment to clean the slate and clear the system out. The change of season always is. But every time I reach for the re-set button, I find myself pretty quickly in a lather of confusion. Go whole grain? Go paleo? Go vegan? A juice fast lasts about a day before I become homicidal, plus it can bankrupt a person in this zip code at this time of year. Between the plethora of philosophies and the lack of tempting ingredients, my virtuous plans often go astray.
I was happy to see this piece in Bon Appetit about making yourself a tasty lunch, for a couple of reasons. One, it reminded me that the road to table happiness for me often leads through the territory of some kind of inspiring condiment. Two, it has some groovy suggestions for simple, appealing ways to eat well. Three, it reminded me that I have often wondered if one could make a savory granola. (The world never tires of pointing out that there are no original ideas anymore.)
I set to work immediately leaving the useful launching pad of their recipe behind, and made two versions that were appealing enough, and different enough, to help me see that it is pretty hard to go wrong and a good amount of fun could be had. One batch used their notion of an egg white as the glue, and that does produce a handsomely shiny product. For my egg-intolerant sister, whom I like to feed, I subbed a chia-seed slurry to hold every thing together, and it worked just fine, though it was less shiny to gaze upon. One batch engaged their same oaty base, and one (hello, Paleo houseguest!) employed coconut instead. This seems like a handy concoction to have around, to toss on top of salads or rice bowls or empty hands seeking snacks.
Guidelines below. Have at it.
inspired by Bon Appetit, April 2014
makes about 3 cups
- 1 c rolled oats, or coconut ribbons or flakes
- to this add a scant 2c c of nuts or seeds, e.g. 1/2 c each of three of these: sliced or slivered almonds, coarsely chopped pecans, cashews or walnuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, shelled unsalted pistachios, or pine nuts, plus a 1/4 cup of sesame or flax seeds
- 1 egg white OR
- 1 T chia seed, bloomed for a few minutes in 1/4 c water
- 1/4 c olive or coconut oil
- 1-2 t maple syrup, agave, or coconut sugar
the spice mix:
- 1 tsp kosher salt (or something salty, like the liquid from a jar of preserved lemons, or tamari, etc)
- about 1 T of mixed spices (see below for suggestions)
Heat the oven to 350. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silicone sheet
Combine the dry ingredients. Combine the wet ingredients. Combine the two mixtures and toss well; taste and adjust the seasonings (I didn’t do that with my version 1, and ended up wishing for more flavor).
Spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet lined with baking parchment, and bake it, stirring a few times to prevent scorching at the edges and get a nice even toastiness, for about 25 minutes. Cool it, and store in an airtight jar.
My version 1 had pine nuts, almonds, cashews and sesame on a base of oats. The glue was the chia slurry and olive oil, with a teaspoon each of sesame oil, tamari and preserved lemon gravy added to it, and the spice mix was about 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper, a pinch of cayenne, and a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger.
Version 2 used coconut as a base; the nuts were almonds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. I used an egg white and coconut oil, and added a teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and brown mustard seeds, along with 1/2 a teaspoon of fennel seed and a shake of ground fenugreek, and a scant teaspoon of korean ground red pepper which is very handy stuff to have around–lots of chili flavor with medium heat–and some fresh grated ginger. You can crush the seeds a little or leave them whole.