I flipped through Megan Gordon's Whole Grain Mornings cookbook seeking breakfast inspiration and began with her recipe for the Very Best Oatmeal, of course. Oatmeal is a morning staple in our house and I couldn't resist that title. You know how roasting nuts brings out their flavor? They are greatly enhanced by heat, especially when we're talking hazelnuts or walnuts, which are almost inedible without first being toasted. Gordon figured out the same move works for oatmeal. Toast the oats in melted butter until they get a little color and you can smell the aroma. It's a big improvement to everyday oatmeal. She also has a different method for cooking the oats, a sort-of steam method requiring less stirring, which makes things easier when I'm running around in the morning trying to get ready.
She knows her way around oats. But when I think of Gordon — and her food blog, A Sweet Spoonful, and her company, Marge — the first thing I think of is granola. I turned to her tips to get my go-to olive oil granola just right, which I've shared with you before, and now she has led me to a new favorite: Hazelnut and Cacao Nib Granola from her new cookbook with seasonal and whole-grain breakfast recipes.
This recipe drew me in with its use of cacao nibs, but once I read through the ingredient list, I decided to make it as soon as I had the chance. Making this granola — with its sesame seeds, hazelnuts, coconut flakes, cardamom and maple syrup — gave me a reason to finally open that jar of Trader Joe's coconut oil. You can use olive oil as substitute, but the coconut oil imparts a whisper of sweetness that is very different from olive oil.
It never occurred to me to stir sesame seeds into granola, but it's one of the best things about this recipe. The earthy sesame flavor is wonderful against the hint of chocolate from the nibs and plays really well with the cardamom and cinnamon. Every time I bit into a cluster, it reminded me of those sesame candies my dad loves.
Not that this granola is very sweet, which is what I love about making my own granola. The flavor here dances along that salty-sweet line whereas most grocery store granola is far too sweet and lacks the depth of flavor I want. This is the most interesting granola I've tried, and now it's my main squeeze for breakfast.
Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with fiance Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at [email protected]