9.25.2010

I remember granola

Whenever I return home after living somewhere else for a while, I suffer from a peculiar form of amnesia: What do I eat here, again? It’s a simple enough question. It should be, anyway, for someone who purportedly spends a great deal of time thinking about what she will eat next. But for my first twenty-four to forty-eight hours at home, I am helpless to answer it. It’s a dark day when writers’ block gets between you and a shopping list. A shopping list, people. Not good. I bump around my kitchen, flipping cupboard doors open and shut, but it’s no use. I’m sure there’s a reason for those cans of tomatoes in there, the dried lentils, the chickpeas, but for the life of me, I can’t tell you what it is. Stepping into the supermarket for the first time since I’ve been back only makes matters worse. In case you haven’t noticed, that place is huge. (Whole Foods on River St., I’m talking about you.) I know how to shop for groceries. It’s not that hard. But here, I have no idea what I’m looking for. It’s as if my brain has been rewired while I’ve been away, the pathways of my old routine erased and replaced by my new routine in Berlin. Where’s the quark? Where’s the Pflaumenmus? And what’s with all the breakfast cereal? This place is weird. I may starve.

But then the cart begins to roll, as if on its own, like when I visit my hometown in Ohio, and I can no longer tell you how to get from point A to point B, but if I grip the wheel, the car will take us there. I push through my old haunts – the produce section, the dairy aisle, bulk foods – and slowly, I begin to remember. I remember Greek yogurt. I remember brown sugar. I remember peanut butter. I remember granola.



I go through phases with granola making. That’s true of other things in my life, too, things like adding a glug of heavy cream to my afternoon tea, moisturizing, or going to bed early. I’ll practice these things religiously, for weeks, maybe months on end. I’ll swear by them. Earl Grey is dessert ! My skin is so soft! I’m wide awake! I’ll ask myself why on earth I don’t always do these things. Then, for no good reason, one of these habits will fall of my radar until, for no better reason, I pick it up again somewhere down the line. For me, making granola is like that. It ebbs and it flows.

I was smack in the middle of some serious granola flow when I flew off to Berlin at the end of June, leaving a couple of jars of the stuff behind on the table for the friends who’d be staying at our place. In a developmental psychology class in college, I learned about object permanence, the understanding that a thing still exists even when it can no longer be seen. A ball, for example, is still there, even when covered by a blanket or tossed out the door. Babies have this concept down by late in the first year of life, I was taught, which makes me a little old – approximately twenty-nine years too old – for out of sight out of mind. Nevertheless, when I shut the door of my apartment and turned the key, my granola ceased to exist. In my defense, I did have savory breakfasts of seeded bread, salted butter, cucumbers, and quark to distract me. Give that to a baby and see if he gives a hoot about some ball.

The important thing is that now, I remember. And being prone to bouts of amnesia and unexpected ebbs, I figure that I’d better get the recipe down here, quick. I mentioned a while back that a few recipes followed me home from Ohio last Memorial Day weekend, and the recipe for this granola is one of them. It’s from my stepmom, Amy, the same Amy who’s given us almond tart, toffee squares, cranberry relish, sour cream coffee cake, cream of tomato risotto, potato salad, and vinaigrette, so you know it’s going to be good. When I walked in, the granola was on the table in one of her tinted glass jars with the bent metal lids. I can’t remember if I shook a little into my hand and poured it into my mouth at that moment, but I’m willing to bet that I did. I’m not one to waste time. For the rest of the weekend, when I wasn’t busy with birthday cake, backyard barbeques, board games, Graeter’s black raspberry chip, and crossword puzzles (that’s Amy in the last photo, by the way; hey, Amy!), I was getting acquainted with that granola. Every day for breakfast, I ate granola, sometimes with yogurt, sometimes with a splash of milk. Even when Amy made pancakes one morning, and it looked as if I wouldn’t be having granola for breakfast, I had granola for breakfast. There just happened to be a yogurt-slathered pancake beneath it. And when it came time for a mid-morning snack or an afternoon nibble, granola it was, straight out of hand.



This granola has a lot going for it, but one of my favorite things about it is what it doesn’t have: an overdose of sweetness. It’s lightly sweetened with just a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup which, in a recipe that produces upwards of five cups of granola, is not very much at all. Whatever sweetness the syrup does impart fades in the oven, together with the strong maple flavor, so that only the merest suggestion of sugar and sap remains. All of the good stuff that you normally associate with making granola – the heady aroma of cinnamon and toasting nuts, the way the dried fruit plumps and softens against the just-baked oats and seeds – is true about making this granola, too, so there’s no need for me to go on about it. But I do want to talk to you about one thing, namely, the coconut in this recipe.

I don’t particularly enjoy coconut in my breakfast cereal. If I hadn’t just downed a bowlful of this granola when I found out that it’s laced with three-quarters of a cup of coconut, I probably would have passed on the recipe. That would have been quite sad of course, because then, I wouldn’t be writing this, and you wouldn’t be reading it, and we’d all be missing out on some seriously stellar granola. The point is this: until Amy pointed out the coconut, I was oblivious to its presence. Then, once I knew to look for it, I realized that I could taste the coconut, just not how I would expect to taste it. The best way that I can explain it is that, in this recipe, coconut functions more like a spice than a dry ingredient. It’s true that if you reach for it, you’ll find that the flavor that toasted coconut adds to this granola is indeed that of – surprise!—toasted coconut. But for some reason, something having to do with the particular combination of ingredients maybe, what you taste is a whole lot of “toasted” and not so much coconut. I’m not sure that “toasted” can be considered a flavor independent of the toasted thing itself, but the disappearing, reappearing coconut in this recipe has me convinced that maybe it could be. It’s pretty amazing. In other words, coconut haters, think twice before skipping this recipe. No, scratch that. Don’t think. Give it a shot and then decide.

As for me, I’m back to chomping through the stuff at the rate of about one batch per week, and wondering how I possibly could have forgotten that this granola is “what I eat here, again.” And again. And again.

Jamie’s Easy Granola
Adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution, by Jamie Oliver, and printed in the October 2009 issue of Health.

This recipe lends itself to all manner of tweaking. I reduced the amount of oil and maple syrup in the original recipe, and loaded it up with my favorite seeds, nuts, and dried fruits. I’m addicted to the formula that you see here, but you should personalize it however you see fit. Sesame seeds, perhaps, instead of flax seeds? Walnuts instead of almonds? Have fun with it.

2 cups whole rolled oats
¾ c. whole almonds
2 heaping Tbsps. each pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds
¾ c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1-2 generous pinches of sea salt
2-3 Tbsps. maple syrup
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 c. dried California apricots (they’re more tangy than sweet)
½ c. unsweetened dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the oats, almonds, seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add the maple syrup and olive oil, and stir. Spread evenly on a baking sheet (I usually line mine with parchment paper, to prevent sticking), and bake for approximately 25 minutes. Open the oven door every 8-10 minutes and push the granola around with a wooden spoon to encourage it to brown evenly. Be sure to watch it toward the end of the baking time, as it tends to go from perfectly golden to burnt very quickly. While the granola is baking, slice the apricots into small strips. Remove the granola from the oven, dump it back into the mixing bowl, add the dried fruit, and stir to incorporate. This granola, like most granola, is probably meant to be enjoyed once it has fully cooled, but I highly recommend that you treat yourself to a bowl of it warm, with a dollop or two of cold yogurt.

Yield: “Makes enough to fill a large jar,” says Jamie Oliver, which is to say, about 5 cups.

33 comments:

darbyoshea said...

Just yesterday I was looking for a good granola recipe. Perfect timing!

Rosiecat said...

Mmm, granola! How delightful, Jess. I like the idea of combining dried apricots and cherries, but unsweetened cherries? I didn't know such things existed! Where did you find yours?

Char said...

i love granola - the problem is that i want to munch it all the time.

yum.

buttersweetmelody said...

Your recipes always have such beautiful stories! I love the way you write, is so effortless. And I LOVE granola. Thanks for this, I think it will work wonderfuly.

-Amalia

http://buttersweetmelody.wordpress.com/

Amy said...

Love granola and Greek Yogurt!!! Makes a great lunch.

Anonymous said...

the granola looks wonderful.

and i have to ask is that black rasberry chip ice cream as good as it sounds/looks??? i'm very tempted to get some of shippped .....

Lady Gouda said...

Ahhh I am the same way. Last spring, no hesitation to make batch after batch of granola. Now? I can't seem to be bothered with the very simple task- a task with such great rewards. I think this post may have just pushed me over the edge though. I miss my homemade granola. I'll try your recipe to spice things up!

Jess said...

Hello, granola lovers!

Look no further, darbyoshea. This one's a keeper.

About those cherries, Rosiecat: You're right that finding unsweetened cherries can be terribly difficult. For a while, I could find them at a small health food store here in Cambridge, but they stopped carrying them. Then I moved on to Whole Foods dried cherries, which used to be sweetened with something - I can't remember what; maybe simple sugar? - and are now sweetened with apple juice. But! When I was in Los Angeles a while back, I purchased a small boatload of unsweetened dried cherries at a farmers' market, and I've slowly been working my way through them. The name of the farm is Harvest Pride, and they don't have a website, but you can call them at (559) 897-1784 to place an order. I've never ordered from them, but I plan to as soon as my stash dwindles. They also have some very special dried apricots, plums, and strawberries, among other things, and if I'm remembering correctly, it's all sugar-free. I also did some searching around the interwebs, and it looks like there are unsweetened dried cherries out there, from vendors like this one and this one. And of course, you're also welcome to use any old dried cherries in this granola! I just happen to prefer dried fruits that are less sweet in mine.

I hear you Char, though I'm sure you'll agree that there are worse "problems," right?

Thank you so much, Amalia! You are so kind. I hope you'll enjoy this granola, the baking and the eating!

Hi, Amy. It's a great combination, I agree.

Yes, Anonymous, a thousand times yes!! I know that my dad has gifted Graeter's to people before, and that the shipped ice cream arrives in top form. Do it!

Hi, Lady Gouda. Well, the nice thing about a prolonged granola ebb is that the ensuing granola flow is particularly sweet! (Though, you know, not too sweet, in the case of this particular granola.) I hope you'll enjoy this version, and I'd love to know the recipe for your go-to granola.

Francesca said...

That's so funny - just as you were commenting on my blog, I was perusing yours! It was indeed lovely meeting you today :-) I look forward to reading more of your food adventures! xo

Jess said...

Ha! Well, thanks for your note here, Francesca. So glad we were able to connect, in person and now online.

Yasmin said...

Wow, what a beautiful blog - the photos and the writing are magical. So great to meet you today, it was an unexpected pleasure. I'll be back here.

Jess said...

Thank you, Yasmin. So much. And yes, it was exactly as you say: "an unexpected pleasure."

Jennifer said...

I'm always taken by your lovely stories and photos! Winning granola too!

Maddie said...

I started making my own granola because I liked being able to pronounce all the ingredients in my breakfast cereal. I never stopped, but like you, I go through bouts of forgetting about homemade granola and then excitedly (and hungrily) rediscovering it. This recipe is going to set me off on another granola-making bender, I bet!

Love the aside about object permanence, by the way...when I took my first psych class, I was so fascinated by this concept.

Jess said...

Thanks, Jennifer. It's so nice of you to say.

Happy to jog your memory with this recipe, Maggie. And ha! I appreciate the motivation behind your homemade granola habit. It is nice, indeed, to know exactly what's in your cereal bowl.

Tracy said...

Here is odd...I just posted granola bars yesterday and today on my drive into work I was thinking "Shredded coconut might taste nice in the next batch." I'm not kidding. Must be something in the air. Glad I stumbled over :)

Anonymous said...

Just made a batch of this over the weekend .. for Caleb's soccer crew ... and they weren't NEARLY as appreciative as you!

Danielle said...

So so delicious. Not too sweet and I love that you use olive oil! Mine didn't take as long to bake (just under 20 minutes) but maybe my oven is just hot. Thanks for a great recipe!

Jess said...

Tracy - I think there is something in the air. Even though I make it all year long (when I remember, that is!), granola feels like fall to me. Your granola bars look great. And the addition of coconut sounds good to me.

Hey, Amy! That is one lucky crew. Thanks again for the recipe. You're the best. xo.

I'm so glad that you liked it, Danielle! Yes, ovens often run hot or cool, so you were wise to check the granola a little early. I keep a thermometer in my oven, by the way, to make sure that my oven's at the temperature it claims. I recommend it. (And hey, congratulations on your new blog! I'm looking forward to reading more.)

Clarice said...

I a very loyal to a granola recipe from the bread book, Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day. I, too, have been in a phase, and my granola jar has been empty since early Summer. Since your biscotti, lentil soup and everything fruit pie have worked out so nicely, I think I'll go fill my granola jar up with your recipe!

Jess said...

Hi, Clarice. I'm so happy to hear that you've been enjoying all of those recipes! I haven't made that biscotti in a while. Thanks for the reminder! I hope you'll like this granola. I'd be curious to hear how it compares to your usual recipe.

jenny said...

Hi Jess! What a beautiful blog with such lovely photos. Love your red table, too. It was great meeting you on Sunday! Thanks for finding me here and saying hello. Hope our paths cross again...all my best, Jenny

the blissful baker said...

i love homemade granola! i never have a batch around for long though - once i start eating it, i can't stop!

Jess said...

Thank you, Jenny! Very happy to connect in person, and here.

I suffer from the same affliction, blissful baker. I'm sometimes surprised by how much granola I can pack away!

Nishta said...

I, too, go through granola-making phases, and now that it's cooling down here in Houston (finally!), I think it's time to start again. xx miss you

Jess said...

Hello, dear Nishta. I miss you too. Boston and Houston are too darn far apart. xo.

Rachel said...

This is just the granola recipe I've been searching for all my life! I've wanted something only slightly sweet. Thank you!

Jess said...

Your whole life? Wow, Rachel, so this granola is a big win for you! I'm very happy to hear it. And I know what you mean. It can be so hard to find any kind of cereal these days that doesn't curl your tongue with sweetness. Enjoy!

The Food Hunter said...

I am so addicted to homemade granola. I'm always looking for new recipes to try. This one looks great

Jess said...

Hi, Food Hunter. Thanks for your note. I hope you'll add this one to your repertoire. I can't get enough of it.

Natalie said...

Hi Jess,

I just came across your blog and this particular post in general really caught my attention. Your writing is so lovely and the idea of of this temporary amnesia that catches us when we travel back home is an idea very familiar to me... i too am one who loves to adopt habits/routines religiously but can also drop them abruptly or just forget about them. i would like to think myself a creature of habit who has a set routine but i am easily distracted, i think! anyhow, i love that this granola recipe isn't too sweet, and i love the incorporation of the dried cherries + apricots!!!

(btw, i normally am in cambridge too! i am a student at harvard, but right now i am studying in florence, italy)

Jess said...

Hello, Natalie. Thank you for your sweet note. I'm so glad you found us here. It's always a pleasure to hear from a fellow Cambridge dweller. And it's nice knowing that I'm not the only one who suffers from this form of amnesia. Your description of yourself as an easily-distracted creature of habit -- I can relate to that! Enjoy the rest of your time in Florence. (Lucky you!)

Ċ½iupsnelis Druskos said...

Delicious!!! I am not very much of a granola person but this one was gone within days! Not surprising since I've swapped my usual toast-for-breakfast for your lovely granola with yogurt. I even posted about it on my blog!

Thanks so much for sharing!

I know I've already said that but I love your blog! :)