by the handful
I've been terribly distracted lately. Like, raw broccoli and four chocolate chip cookies for dinner at 11pm, distracted.
I'm in the thick of preparing for my general exams (known at some universities as comprehensive or oral exams). I took my first one last week. Happily, I passed. Next up is a three-hour written exam on Imperial Russian history. Though I try to come up for air every now and then, my brain seems to have taken a liking to "the long nineteenth century," and doesn't always come up with me. In other words, I have dead Russians on my mind all the time.
Yesterday, I caught Eli reading a Business Week article on Pyotr Smirnov of Smirnoff vodka fame, a man who, according to the article, "went from serf to the tsar's vodka man." I smugly pointed out that Smirnov was likely freed, together with the all of the serfs, in 1861 by Tsar Alexander II. Eli smiled and nodded, appeasingly. (Truth be told, he loves this kind of trivia.) But it doesn't stop there: I take my lunch with a side of Catherine the Great, and my showers with a hot, soapy mulling over of Nicholas I's conscription policy. Oh, and you should probably think twice before stopping me on the street to ask for directions. In all likelihood, I'll launch into a full-on explanation of the social, political, and economic consequences of the 1772, 1793, and 1795 partitions of Poland. You have been warned.
I'm not spending much time in the kitchen these days. My typical three meals a day plus snacks routine has been replaced by something I like to call a State of Graze. A spoonful of almond butter, here. A stalk of celery, there. The full-on meals I do prepare are ones in which the ingredients can be measured by the handful, food that can be thrown together, barely (if at all) cooked, and devoured. Salads, sautés, and cereals top the list. As it turns out, this simple, everyday fare suits more than just my grueling study schedule. It also fits perfectly with the newly warm spring weather that practically chases you out of the kitchen, anyway, and down to the river for a picnic of bread, cheese, and fruit.
Speaking of the everyday, I've been thinking: That's what this blog is all about, for me - capturing my everyday. And I don't think I have been doing a very good job of it lately. Perhaps I'm not setting the right traps. In the last month, we have celebrated birthday, after birthday, after birthday. We have gone out to dinner at my favorite Cambridge restaurant not once, but twice. Heck, thanks to my fertile family and friends, we've even had a few babies. I don't mean to complain, but it occurs to me that my everyday keeps getting squeezed out. That makes me sad. Because, believe me, for all of the celebrating and birthday cake baking that goes on around here, there is also a whole lot of bleary-eyed, bed-headed everyday. It's clumsy. It's messy. Reassuringly so. And do you know what else? It is beautiful.
Thanks to a century and a half of autocratic Russian tsars and hundreds of pages of history on my plate, I don't have any four layer cakes for you today. Instead, I bring you my breakfast. It's just a few handfuls of oats and nuts and seeds, tossed onto a baking sheet and lightly toasted. But it sure is lovely. It's my everyday, and it's why I'm here.
It might seem strange to bake small, one-serving batches of granola every day. (If it's just one serving, is it even a "batch?") After all, making a larger recipe is just as easy, and much more efficient. I like the mini-batch for a couple of reasons: First, I enjoy the contrast of warm, crisp, just-baked oats, seeds, and nuts against cold and creamy Greek yogurt. Also, since I have been spending very little time cooking lately, it's nice to have at least this one small kitchen moment built into my day. The nutty aroma first thing in the morning is nice, too.
As I mentioned, I've been doing most of my measuring by the handful. The ingredient measurements are approximate and flexible. I like to eat this granola over plain, Greek yogurt, but it's also good with milk, or even all by itself.
1/2 c. (or, a couple of small handfuls) rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 c. (or, one small handful) raw pumpkin seeds
1 T. (or, a five-fingered pinch or two) flax seeds
A few whole almonds
3 dashes cinnamon
3 grinds of sea salt
A squirt of honey or agave nectar, or a sprinkle of brown sugar, if you so desire.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. While you're waiting for the oven to get hot, mix the first six ingredients in a cereal bowl (and, if you'd like, brew your tea or coffee, and read the front page of the newspaper). Spread the oats, nuts, and seeds mixture on a baking sheet, and bake for about 8 minutes, until the almonds are fragrant, and the oats are lightly browned.
Put a few spoonfuls of yogurt into the cereal bowl. (You can measure the yogurt in handfuls, too, if you're so inclined, though it might get messy.) Pour the hot granola over the yogurt and, if you're me, top it all off with a drizzle of lavender honey or a squirt agave nectar.
Posted by Jess