Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Savory Oatmeal "Risotto"

I invented a new recipe yesterday afternoon while I was catching up with laundry.  Knowing I had no leftover grains, I looked around for what needed to be used up in my pantry. I found just about a cup of Steel Cut Oats. The oats had been languishing on the shelf because the combination of morning and working in the kitchen has not turned out to be a good one for me. The steel cut oats need to be cooked for a longer time than regular oatmeal, though when prepared well, the texture is much more satisfying. Still, since I am not big on planning ahead or being patient when I am hungry in the morning, the oats had been sitting there for some time. So I decided to experiment. I'm so happy I did!

Risotto, an Italian dish using arborio rice, is typically creamy, silky and rich, laden with cheese and other dairy. With my "oatmeal risotto" I wasn't aiming for the Italian risotto consistency, I actually had no idea what to expect in terms of texture, I was working from a flavor standpoint. I was thinking I wanted something flavorful and mild, a departure from the sweet flavors we associate with oatmeal in the morning. I wanted something savory and rich, comfort food. The resulting texture of my experiment was a happy surprise. Creamy and satiny, the oatmeal risotto was satisfying and filling, but not in an overindulgent way. I hope you like it!

Savory Oatmeal "Risotto"

1 c. steel cut oats
2 1/2 c. vegetable broth or water with veggie boullion cube
1 large yellow onion, diced small
3 sprigs fresh thyme, intact
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper

Cooking Instructions:
On low heat, simmer the oats, broth and raw diced onion, covered, for about an hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes to be sure it doesn't stick. If you see it begin to stick, add a splash more water -- a 1/4 cup or so. It will all be absorbed. I'm a lazy cook -- I didn't bring this to a boil first, and I didn't even reconstitute the veggie boullion cube or saute the onion first as some of you probably would have, but I love how it turned out this way. The boullion falls apart the first time you stir it. After an hour, remove the pan from heat and stir in the olive oil and the fresh sprigs of thyme. Then let rest, covered, allowing any remaining liquid to be absorbed. I let mine sit for another whole hour, waiting for my husband to come home, and it was still warm. Finally, remove the thyme sprigs and salt and pepper the risotto to taste.

This recipe needn't take two hours, it's just what worked out for me since I was upstairs folding clothes and didn't want to work with high heat when I wasn't downstairs watching it. Also, I didn't speed up the process since I wasn't sure when the man would be walking in the door. Obviously, this recipe might also work well in a crock pot. Alternately, the cooking instructions could be adapted using the cooking times/heats suggested on the oatmeal package which would be more expedient. I'm not sure the consistency would be as creamy, however. The olive oil, warmed by the residual heat of the oats but not cooked, retains its full flavor and is integral to creating the satiny texture of the resulting dish. The thyme sprigs, also warmed thus, are more "steeped" than cooked, imparting a lovely fresh flavor. They were still green when I removed them. You could serve this with vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast if you want. I liked the delicate flavors on their own.

I had fun "stepping out of the box" with this different treatment of oatmeal. I hope you enjoy it too.

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