Friday, January 8, 2010
Oatmeal with Apples, Gruyere and Rosemary
With the start of each new year, many among us make resolutions, a large portion of which tend to revolve in some way around the way we eat - be it losing weight, eating more fruit and vegetables, eating more responsibly-sourced meat and local ingredients, and just generally getting healthier. While I don't kid myself with such grand illusions, every once in a while I make a resolution, and I do my best to make it stick. Apparently we're more likely to stick with a resolution if it's specific ("I will do yoga three times a week") rather than overbroad and vague ("I will exercise more"). The specificity gives us an actual goal to work towards, rather than a foggy conception of what it is we'd like to achieve, and it's therefore easier to hold oneself accountable. Last year I made an effort to floss every single day (please don't judge me for my less than exemplary flossing habits). I made it to the end of February - pretty good, mais non?
Truth be told, it's never a bad idea to eat healthily no matter what time it is, regardless of whether you've made resolutions or just want a general detox from the unavoidable holiday bingeing. I try to keep my diet relatively healthy, and I'm typically successful. One of the staples of my diet is oatmeal. It is one of the few things that I could eat every day, at practically any time, no less. I eat it at my desk for breakfast usually every day at work (with the odd fage detour). Sometimes I even eat it for dinner. I don't love over-sweetened oatmeal, but prefer to taste the nuttiness of the grains through whatever flavorings I'm using. When it comes to dinner, however, I often go for straight savory options.
I have, for a while, been using oat bran almost as a substitute for grits. The texture is not exactly the same, as oat bran does not maintain that same, well, grittiness that corn meal does, softening a bit further than polenta can as it cooks. It is, however, a good deal better for you than corn meal, with fiber and protein to keep you sated for a while. When it comes to those meals, I'll often flavor my oatmeal with a pinch of salt and a pepper, whatever spices or herbs I'm feeling at the moment, grate in a little bit of parmegianno for some umami, and top it with a runny-yolked poached egg. A little prick of that yolk sends the unctuous yellow river flowing from the egg, coating everything in the bowl with a wonderful richness. It's simple, it's satisfying, and it's really quite healthy.
Ever since reading that Mark Bittman loves his oatmeal topped with soy sauce and scallions, though, I've expanded my oatmeal horizons beyond my egg-topped oat bran and into the world of whole oats - the article serving as reassurance that my oatmeal was not going to revolt if I did not top it with brown sugar. I've tried different permutations, some sucessful and some not. A couple of (cough) weeks ago, however, I stumbled upon one that I quite like. And it should be no surprise, for the flavor combination is a quite familiar one.
Apples and oatmeal are frequently paired together, though usually cinnamon and brown sugar join them. This time, though, I went for gruyere, which I have used many times before to make grilled cheese and apple sandwiches. If the flavors worked there, why wouldn't they work here? And I added some rosemary to the pot, to brighten up the flavors and provide some freshness to the dish to make it seem a bit rounder, more complete. What I had was a fine dish indeed, it tasted healthful, but not boring. It was clean and simple enough for me to feel good about what I was eating, but not wish that I was eating something else. It is, simply, good.
Oatmeal with Apples, Gruyere and Rosemary
This is an approximation of a recipe, as I measured nothing except the oats and water. Granted, however, there are only two other ingredients that arguably require measuring.
I used quick-cooking steel-cut oats here, since I really like the way they almost seem to pop in your mouth, but I don't really want to stand over the stove for 45 minutes waiting for them to cook (though making this for dinner is less burdensome than making it for breakfast, as there's no impending need to get dressed and out of the house as soon as possible). While I'm sure this would work well with your standard rolled oats as well, I really like the textural contrast between the oats and the apples, which soften up during cooking.
1 tsp. butter (salted or non-, depending on your preference)
1 small to medium-sized apple, cut into bite-sized pieces (Skin on or off, as you desire. I like to leave the skin on since that's where a good amount of the nutrients in an apple are hiding. Also, I used a gala apple)
1/4 cup steel-cut irish oats or 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup water
a couple of tablespoons of shredded gruyere, or more to taste
Rosemary, 1/2 - 1 tsp fresh, finely chopped or 1/8 tsp dried, or to taste, depending on how much you like it
Salt and Pepper
In a small pot over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the apples until they start to soften up just a tad, about a minute or two. Once that happens, add the oats to the pot and stir them around a bit, allowing them to get toasty, which will create a nuttier depth of flavor. Toast for two minutes, stirring frequently and making sure they don't burn (you may need to add a touch more butter). Add the water, bring to a boil, and cook the oatmeal according to the package directions. Once the oatmeal is cooked, take it off the heat and allow the mixture to sit for a minute. Stir in the cheese and rosemary, season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!