From the Culinary Underground: Savoring oatmeal

This is the latest in an ongoing guest series brought to you by Southborough’s Culinary Underground. This week Chef Lori offers up a hearty bowl of oatmeal – with toppings both sweet and savory – to help get us started on those chilly winter mornings.

(Photo via Flickr)

Porridge, parritch, groats, or gruel – whatever you call it, bowls of hot cooked grains have been appearing on the breakfast table for millenia.

Oatmeal is the go-to breakfast grain for most Americans, and I’m tickled that people have been getting back the less processed forms in recent years. Oh, there are still the hold-outs, those people their little bags of super-sweetened, microwaveable library paste – ugh! Sure, it’s fast and easy but not nearly as nutrious as steel-cuts or old-fashioned rolled oats. If you use the overnight method (which is what my grandmother always did), it only takes a few minutes to cook grains in the morning. Don’t tell me you don’t have time; I’ve seen you in the rush-hour line at Starbucks…

Oatmeal is great made with either water or milk. And don’t forget the pinch of salt: you don’t want flat-tasting oats. The usual toppings are wonderful – maple syrup, bananas, raisins, brown sugar, a little wheat germ, hot milk.

But when you’re ready for a walk on the wild side, try a savory version (I concede this may take a little mental adjustment, but it will be worth it). Into your finished oatmeal stir in a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon or so of grated Parmesan cheese, and top off the bowl with a poached or fried egg, or even chopped up hard-cooked egg. The addition of a few forkfuls of leftover steamed greens, like chard or kale, really make this a complete meal of protein, whole grains, and greens. If you don’t like eggs, try some diced cooked chicken, sausage, or pork if you have some lying around. My personal favorite is olive oil, crumbled feta, and lots of black pepper. It’s like breakfast risotto!

Overnight Oatmeal
(1-2 servings)

1/2 Cup steel-cut oats
 or old-fashioned oats
2 Cups boiling water
A big pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cover and let stand overnight a room temperature.

In the morning, uncover the pan and bring the oats to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes. The oats should be al dente when done.

(If you’re a microwave junkie, just put the ingredients in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl and cover overnight. In the morning, place the bowl in the microwave, loosely covered, and cook for 5 minutes on HIGH. Stir, and cook 3-4 minutes longer.)

You can thin the oatmeal with additional hot water to desired consistency. Then top with desired toppings, sweet or savory.

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