Some need the crunch; some to munch; some brunch; some lunch. Whatever the reason, whatever the time, for many of us, there is granola.
Hikers love it for its combination of lightness packed with nutrition. Mothers add it to lunch boxes for the same reason. Dieters add it to no-fat yogurt, good hotels and restaurants to the best Greek yogurt.
First made for a spa in the late 1800s, it has had cycles of popularity, most recently starting around 1960, and now seems ubiquitous. Essentially, granola started with rolled oats, whole grain products, and something to hold them together, like honey or molasses. Baking added the crunch.
Adding fruit and nuts is common in granola and its unsweetened, unbaked, moist sister, muesli (German for “mixture”).
As with any munching mixture, there is no one way to make it, no one ingredient that is crucial, bearing in mind that it is supposed to be nutritious and not overly sweetened.
Cynthia Graubart, my friend and co-author with me of “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking,” always has some around her house in Atlanta. She makes hers in her slow cooker, an ideal way for those of us who are too impatient to stand and stir.
This recipe is from her book, “Slow Cooking for Two: Basics, Techniques and Recipes” (Gibbs-Smith, 2013).
Makes 4 cups
For breakfast, snacks, or as a topping for fruit or ice cream, customize this recipe by creating your own fruit and nut mixtures. This granola produces oats that only slightly cling together. For a crunchier, cluster type of granola, increase the honey by up to 1 cup. Experiment until you find the consistency you prefer. If adding more honey, watch carefully during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, as the honey can cause excess browning.
1⁄4 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups rolled oats
1⁄2 cup chopped mixed nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans
1⁄2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, optional
1⁄2 cup chopped dried fruit, such as dates, raisins, apricots, cranberries
1⁄4 cup honey
Coat the inside of a 31⁄2-quart slow cooker with cooking spray, if desired. Melt butter on high in the slow cooker, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Stir in oats, coating with the butter. Add nuts, coconut, if using, and dried fruit. Stir well to mix. Pour in honey and stir again.
Cover the crock with two layers of paper towels, and then the lid. Cook 3 hours on high, stirring once or twice during cooking time. Granola can cook up to 4 hours.
Spread on a cookie sheet to cool. Store in airtight containers at room temperature, refrigerated, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
The recently opened Kitchen 208 takes granola Southern with the addition of benne (sesame seeds) and using Johns Island honey, serving it elegantly with yogurt in a parfait glass. It has a very special panache of its own, particularly served outdoors on a lovely Charleston morning at the restaurant on King Street.
Kitchen 208 Benne Seed Granola
Makes about 7 cups
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups steel cut oats
1 cup raw almond slices
1/3 cup sesame seeds (benne seeds in the South)
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup Johns Island honey (any mild honey works)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir together oats, almonds, benne seeds, oil and honey until well incorporated and evenly coated with the honey.
Spread evenly on the lined sheet pan and bake 20-25 minutes in the oven until lightly browned and toasted. Allow to cool completely before putting into airtight containers.
Jack Bass’ Mock Muesli
Makes 6 to 8 cups
My husband Jack Bass was given this recipe by the wife of the late federal judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. Easily assembled, it provides a moist, quick nutritious meal with no fuss, as the whole thing is made ahead, just once a week, with the optional fresh fruit added just before serving. Although it separates and looks a bit peculiar (it has been known to be called “gloop” by children) even the wary ask for a serving once it is stirred and a small taste is ventured. This is ideal for those who have refrigeration at the office.
1 (16-ounce) container low-fat yogurt (vanilla or another flavor)
2 cups raw oatmeal
1 (20-ounce) can pineapple, chunks, tidbits or crushed
1 cup raw oat bran
1 cup milk
Small handful pecan pieces
Bananas, peaches or other moist, fresh fruits (optional)
Mix all ingredients, with the exception of the fresh fruit, stirring thoroughly, in an airtight container. Cover tightly. Let sit, refrigerated, overnight to soften the mixture. One half cup topped with a portion of sliced or roughly chopped fruit is sufficient for one person. It lasts for a week, refrigerated. Stir before serving because it tends to separate.
Nathalie Dupree, who lives in Charleston, is the former director of Rich’s Cooking School in Atlanta and the author of “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She may be reached at www.nathalie.com.
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