A Bowl to Savour
We're at the tail end of winter and the pantry's almost bare. Well, likely not bare at all given our access to the modern supermarket, but our regional pantry, our store of comestibles produced within even a few hundred kilometre radius of here is down to the crumbs. If you dedicate yourself to choosing local and seasonal foods to any degree, by this time of year not only is the glorious "crispness" of winter wearing thin, so is your culinary inspiration.
For months, we've roasted root vegetables, warmed up with stews and soups, scrounged in the freezer for summer harvest reserves and in the pantry for pickles, and come away from the store less than enthused by the out-of-season offerings. Yet we need to hang in there a little longer - it's bound to be a month or more before a wisp of green escapes the frozen ground.
Take heart, fellow eaters! All we need to get us through with ingredients that are less than fresh is an idea that is. Have you ever tried savoury oatmeal? I admit, it sounds off-putting at first, messing with the comforting milky sweetness of your morning porridge. But when it comes to adventures into the gustatory unknown, we would do well to follow the sage advice of Dr. Seuss: "You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say."
I've found savoury oatmeal to be surprisingly delicious and satisfying. As a breakfast bowl, it may be a new addition to the B&B menu, but it could just as easily make a hearty and healthy lunch or supper. It can be adapted endlessly according to what's seasonal (or languishing in the fridge) and to your appetite of the moment. Right now, mine would probably include sautéed mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and zucchini (frozen from the summer) with an organic egg and goat feta. Maybe a little colour with roasted red pepper (also frozen from summer) or sundried tomato. By spring, that would change to include early greens, chives, and asparagus; summer might see fresh tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and herbs in the mix. However you do it (in a box...with a fox...), give it a go as a means of surprising your tastebuds one morning, jolting yourself out of the it's-still-winter doldrums, and launching yourself optimistically into all that is new!
SAVOURY OATMEAL, a template
1. Cook 1/4-1/3 cup oatmeal per person, adding a generous pinch of sea salt. Rolled oats will work, but you get far superior texture with the steel cut variety. Whole oat groats can also be used, if soaked first overnight, but will give a less creamy result.
2. Prepare vegetables (adding a little sea salt) and pile on top of oatmeal. Some options:
fresh: sliced or torn arugula, diced tomato, avocado...
sautéed: mushrooms, zucchini, kale/spinach/chard/nettles...
steamed: asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato...
seasonings to sauté: chili flakes, garlic, onion, dried herbs
fresh seasonings: fresh herbs, chives/green onions
3. Drizzle with oil. This is an important part of the flavour, cohesiveness, and nutrition of the dish. It's crucial that the oil be fresh and of good quality so that it tastes wonderful and is actually good for you. Ideal choices are extra virgin, first cold pressed olive oil (the fresher, the better) or organic, cold-pressed flax or hempseed oil. A little organic butter or extra virgin coconut oil stirred in to the hot oatmeal might be nice, too, depending on your preference. Use 1-2 teaspoons, or to taste.
4. Cook one (or two) eggs per person: poach, fry, or soft-boil and scoop out halves. Season with salt and pepper and nestle into bowl with oats and veggies. Add another (optional) wee drizzle of oil.
5. Top it off with extra flavour from one or more of these:
cheese (crumbled feta or chèvre, grated parmesan or cheddar)
toasted nuts or seeds
crumbled crisp prosciutto
sundried tomatoes, olives, pickled jalapenos, artichoke hearts