Recipe: Summer Oats
Twice a month, Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, tentatively titled “Meals from the Homemade Pantry,” due out in 2015.
Of all the foods to go on about in August, oatmeal may seem an unlikely candidate for adoration. But this is no utilitarian bowl of gluey oats. This is something entirely different.
In the winter, I eat my oatmeal with maple syrup, or maybe jam. There might be some dried fruit or nuts from the pantry in there. It’s sweet and warm, but still it’s breakfast that belongs to times when there isn’t much fresh food, and to quick mornings before school when the goal of breakfast is to give my kids a bit of armor against the cold, cruel February world. I’m glad it exists, but it’s nothing to wax poetic about.
But this? Allow me to wax, if you will.
I start with an oatmeal recipe from my friend Megan Gordon. She wrote a beautiful book last year called Whole Grain Mornings, and it begins with a few basics, most importantly a recipe she calls (and rightly so) “The Very Best Oatmeal.” She toasts her oats in butter, and then sprinkles them over a combination of milk and water, stirring them in to sit and absorb the liquid off the heat. The method creates less of an oatmeal and more of a bowl of warm toasted oats, and this turns out to be the perfect base for all the fruit that’s ripe and at its most wonderful right this second. The whole process takes 10 minutes if you’re speedy, or 15 if you’re in vacation mode, watching the mist lift while you drink your coffee. Then bring out those berries, slice up every last peach and nectarine on the counter, and let everyone create their own bowl.
2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup milk or nut milk
Generous pinch of salt (be more generous if you use unsalted butter)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 2/3 cups water
For serving: fruit, cream, maple syrup brown sugar, toasted nuts, seeds…
1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oats and toast, stirring occasionally, until the oats smell nutty and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring the milk, salt, cinnamon, and water to a low boil in a medium pot. Add the toasted oats and gently stir them into the hot milk mixture. Cover the pot, remove it from heat, and let the pot sit, undisturbed, for 7 to 8 minutes. Check the oats, and if there’s still a fair amount of liquid, give them a stir, cover the pot again, and let sit for a few more minutes. Serve piled with fresh fruit and other toppings of your choice.