I confess, I am a salt snob. I didn’t realize I was becoming one. It just snuck up on me… probably because of packaging. I’m a sucker for pretty groceries, and that French fleur de sel in the exquisite little tins with pictures of the sea got me. Then there are the colors and smells of smoked salts, the textures and options for sea salt in the bulk bins at my grocer’s; it boggles the mind!
For years I cooked with little or no salt. I was above it; thought that it ruined perfectly good food. Now I’ve changed, or my palate has changed, and I appreciate just a pinch in or on almost everything I cook. It makes food taste more like itself. It is like that little bit of vanilla extract that makes chocolate taste more like chocolate, if that makes sense.
But, today we are not actually going to talk about salt. If you really want to learn about it, get a copy of Salt: A World History and settle in for a good read. Or, just explore the salt aisle (*salt* aisle??) next time you’re in a grocery. It ain’t just the blue canister with the picture of the little girl with the umbrella any more!
This week I took advantage of the end of the cool weather to make a big batch of granola. It is amazingly easy to make, and awfully good. Once it is baked and cooled it keeps for a long time in a tightly closed zip-bag, so big batches make sense. I like it with yogurt or milk, fruit, extra nuts, or just out of the bag. I’m lucky enough to have a local grocery with an amazing bulk department, so I can get a variety of grains, nuts, and anything else I feel like adding.
Please understand that the following “recipe” is remarkably flexible. You can change the kinds of grains, the nuts (walnuts are wonderful, as are pecans), but the rough proportions work for me. You can certainly leave out the coconut, add flax seed or dried fruit (after baking) or take off in any number of directions. I hope you’ll share ideas with me! Here’s (pretty much) what I do:
3 cups oatmeal or mixed grains
1.5 C slivered raw almonds
1 C unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 C cooking oil of choice
1/3 C maple syrup
1/3 C brown sugar
a *good* pinch of salt
1 T Armenian seven spice or a spice mix (cinnamon/cloves/cardamon/allspice…)
In a big bowl, mix the grains, coconut and almonds.
In a smaller bowl mix the brown sugar, oil and maple syrup. Add the salt and spices to the wet mixture and mix well. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix very thoroughly. *Now* set the oven to 250F (yes, really 250 — a long slow bake). If your oven is like mine this takes about 15 minutes to get to temperature. The granola mixture seems to benefit from sitting for about that long before baking, so in this one case I actually do not recommend “preheating” the oven.
So, once the oven has reached temp, mix the granola once again to be sure that there are no clumps, spread it on a cookie sheet and bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Turn it every 15 or 20 minutes with a spatula to be sure it bakes evenly and that it doesn’t stick to the cookie sheet. You can bake it on parchment, but I’ve found that it doesn’t brown quite as nicely, so…
When the granola is slightly brown and crispy, and your home smells like heaven, just turn off the oven, crack the oven door and let it cool. Once it is completely cool, bag it up and enjoy it as you like! I think I’ll go have a bowl now… mmmmm!