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Posts Tagged ‘steel-cut oats’

Nanny’s Peach Cobbler: Accept no substitutes.

Among this summer’s Lessons Learned: Do not forsake your grandmother’s recipes.

Facing a peach glut a few weeks ago, I decided that it was cobbler time. I’ve always loved peach cobbler, straight out of the oven or the refrigerator, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or eaten plain.

Peach cobbler is, quite simply, the dessert of summer.

It’s also the dessert of chaos. Done right, it’s a gooey mess, making it a less-than-friendly offering at the office, and I certainly didn’t need an entire peach cobbler haunting me every night at home.

Ramekins to the rescue.

I LOVE making things in ramekins. They can make individual servings out of almost any recipe.

The plan: Make six individual peach cobblers. Two for me, two for the husband and two for the generous co-worker who shared his peach bounty.

I’m not sure why I thought that my grandmother’s cobbler recipe wasn’t up to the task. It was probably a decision brought on by over-research, since I was originally trying to find a cobbler recipe that gave instructions for ramekins. At any rate, I finally narrowed in on Southern Plate’s recipe for peach cobbler.

It was tasty, but it wasn’t the peach cobbler I was looking for.

Southern Plate’s Peach Cobbler: It’s delicious, but it’s not the recipe for me.

Two weeks later, facing another pile of peaches, I didn’t even turn on the computer. I went to my recipe collection and flipped straight to my grandmother’s peach cobbler recipe.

The results: Six individual peach cobblers that tasted like a carefree summer afternoon on my grandparents’ farm.

Nanny’s Peach Cobbler

  • 1 quart (4 cups) fresh peaches, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease six ramekins with butter.

Stir together the peaches, sugar and 2 tbsp. flour. Divide the mixture evenly among ramekins (you can probably stretch it out to eight if you want slightly smaller servings). In a medium mixing bowl, cut 1 cup flour in with butter; stir in milk. Spoon mixture evenly on top of the peach mixture in each ramekin.

Bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes until the crusts are golden brown.

Note: I like cinnamon with my peaches, so I sprinkled probably 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in with the peaches. I also sprinkled a dash of cinnamon sugar on top of every cobbler before baking; as you can see in the top photo, this really just resulted in some darker spots on the crust. I’ll probably add an entire teaspoon of cinnamon to the fruit next time.

And the peaches that don’t get turned into cobbler? They get chopped up and stirred into a simmering pot of steel-cut oats with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and a spoonful of brown sugar. Best oatmeal ever.

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Yes, I DID go all the way to Le Pain Quotidien, a fabulous bakery in New York City, and ordered organic steel-cut oatmeal with fresh berries. I had pretty much threatened to do this a few weeks ago.

It was entirely worth skipping croissants and danishes to eat this masterpiece instead. Creamy and nutty, it made me realize that I need to figure out how to utilize milk in my version of steel-cut oats instead of simply water and/or orange juice.

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In the end, it was nobody’s fault but my own that I brought home a monstrously large plastic box filled with salad greens. I already had my requisite $5 worth of Earth Fare hipster food (quinoa and steel-cut oats) in the cart, and the free salad coupon was burning a hole in my pocket. I sighed when I saw the packaging, but I put it in the cart anyway.

I didn’t truly realize how large the box was until I got it home and had to rearrange my entire refrigerator to make it fit.

I try not to buy produce in big plastic boxes like this, but other people obviously do. On the New York Times Freakonomics blog, James McWilliams maintains that this kind of packaging extends the life of produce, meaning that people are more likely to get a chance to eat it before it goes bad. Granted, this box of lettuce stayed reasonably fresh for the better part of two weeks. Had I been able to choose the amount of salad greens I was going to purchase, however, I never would have bought that much at one time. (And note that Earth Fare does offer a fresh mix of greens that you can purchase by the pound. Or ounce, in my case.)

Clamshell packaging just seems like so much overkill.

McWilliams points out that consumers could alleviate the need for food-extending packaging by learning how to shop strategically (don’t buy too much food at once), a skill that, admittedly, may be easier for a two-person household with a reasonably predictable routine.

Luckily, the box was No. 1 plastic, meaning I could put it in my recycling bin. I note, however, that a lot of houses in my neighborhood don’t put out a big blue recycling bin every week, so I fear that a lot of this packaging is not being recycled. Even if it is recycled — and even if the company uses 100 percent recycled plastic in the packaging — more plastic clamshells must be manufactured.

I guess what I’m saying is no more huge clamshell produce containers in the Haggerty household, free coupon or not. And I’m thinking that some sort of washable produce bags, like these, are in my future.

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A slide show over at Serious Eats: New York featuring the best oatmeal in New York City tells me that my steel-cut oats with brown sugar and dried cranberries is the stuff of amateurs. Oatmeal with vanilla and lavender syrup, anyone?

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Today, we talk about oatmeal.

I know. Oatmeal. It’s either bland and mushy, or oversweetened, artificially flavored and mushy.

This, however, is not the oatmeal I intend to talk about. Reserve your rolled oats for oatmeal and raisin cookies, and make steel-cut oats for breakfast.

Steel-cut oats (also known as Irish oats) undergo much less processing than rolled oats, and thus offer diners a completely different flavor and texture. Properly prepared steel-cut oats are nutty and chewy (no mush here), and I find them much more satisfying than rolled oats.

The bad news: Steel-cut oats can take 30 minutes or longer to cook if you haven’t soaked them.

The good news: Duh. Soak them and they’ll be ready in as little as 10 minutes.

The prepackaged brands of steel-cut oats always seem to carry a hefty price tag. You’ll be much better off purchasing them in bulk. I buy my supply at Earth Fare for $1.19 a pound.

They’re a cinch to make, but you have to plan ahead. Use a ratio of one part oats to two parts water; for two people I usually use 3/4 cup oats and 1.5 cups water. Soak the oats in the water overnight in the pot that you’re going to cook them in.

You can get the same results with only three hours of soaking, but not everyone has my luxurious Saturday schedule, which has me getting up at 5 a.m. to feed a geriatric cat and then heading back to bed until 8 a.m. or so.

If you’re feeling spiffy, substitute orange juice or cranberry juice for about a quarter cup of the water. The orange juice will add a real citrus bite to the finished oatmeal, and the cranberry juice will complement the dried cranberries that I’m going to talk about in a minute.

Put the pot of soaked oats on the stove after you roll out of bed. Turn the burner up to medium-high and let the oats come to a boil, then turn the burner down low enough to keep a slow boil without the oats boiling over. And they WILL boil over if the heat’s too high. Keep the lid on the pot, but lift it every couple of minutes to check your boil and give the oatmeal a quick stir.

After about 10 minutes, the oatmeal should be almost thick enough to serve. Lagniappe time. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, and add raisins and/or dried cranberries. Let everything meld together for a couple more minutes and then ladle the oatmeal into your serving bowls. Drop a few crumbled walnuts or pecans on top if you like.

Enjoy. And say goodbye to instant mediocrity.

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From Jean Georges in Manhattan: Warm sweet potato cake with a cranberry compote and cranberry foam.

 

When the husband and I go on vacation, we tend to plan our itinerary around food. We’re not the only people who do this, but I get mixed reactions from a few folks, some of whom apparently expect to hear more about the shows we’ve seen in New York City (most recent count: 0) than our sake-tasting and evaluation of the freshly made tofu at EN Japanese Brasserie (evaluation: awesome).

Some people get it: After a recent photo documenting our pilgrimage to the Doughnut Plant, one Facebook friend noted, “You take the best doughnut vacations ever!” Indeed, we do.

So what’s with our vacation food obsession? Honestly, we eat like monks at home. We have old-fashioned oatmeal (or steel-cut oats, if there’s time) with walnuts and raisins for breakfast every day. I almost always have a fresh salad and quinoa or hummus for lunch, while the husband consistently has a ham-and-cheese sandwich. Dinner might be homemade lasagna or something easy, like a cheese sandwich pressed into submission on the Foreman Grill with a bowl of leftover Cowboy Stew. We rarely go out to eat. We’ve found that one of the consequences of cooking your own healthy, delicious food at home is that your average restaurant food doesn’t measure up anymore.

What does measure up, however, is your above-average restaurant food. And this is what turns our vacations into the pursuit of destination dining. So while I can’t be bothered with a 10-minute drive to Krispy Kreme for Hot Doughnuts Now (trust me when I tell you that growing up with a Krispy Kreme within easy driving distance makes their doughnuts way less of an attraction later), I am perfectly willing to make a 15-minute hike to the subway station, stand on a crowded car for five minutes, make a 10-minute hike to the Doughnut Plant and stand in a long line for a Valrhona chocolate doughnut. I deem the calories worthwhile.

And that’s how my photo albums end up filled with pictures of doughnuts, ice cream, cheeseburgers and steamed shrimp, while we forget to take pictures of ourselves. Sorry, Mom.

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I finally made it to Huntsville’s new Earth Fare location last weekend, although I failed to spend the requisite $100-plus some customers have brag-complained about.

Earth Fare is like any other grocery store in its basic layout: If you stick to the perimeter, where the produce, dairy products, meats, cheeses and breads are located, you’ll spend less money and get healthier food for your family. Head to the interior aisles, however, and you may spend more than you should on things you don’t need, like frozen waffles,  cereals, prepackaged mixes and fancy juices.

Yes, eventually you’ll have to venture to a middle aisle, if nothing else than to find Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew, seriously the only soda I waste calories on anymore. But consider another pass through the produce area instead of grabbing a couple of boxes of all natural fruit chews off the shelf, especially if you intend to grouse about prices later.

Earth Fare’s biggest draws for me, in order: the bulk bins (grains, not candy), the produce selection, the fresh peanut butter grinders (husband thing) and the olive bar. The olive bar is a tad pricey at almost $10 a pound, but it’s great when you just need a few olives of a certain type for a recipe, or you get a craving flung on you for a few spoonfuls of marinated mushrooms.

Some folks want to criticize the store for carrying non-local produce, and I admit I was momentarily disappointed to find watermelons from Honduras on display. What I forgot for a second, and what a lot of people forget when they rant about produce being shipped into their regions, is that we don’t HAVE watermelons locally in May. Local tomatoes don’t exist in March. Local citrus … uh, no.

If we want all fruits and vegetables the whole year round, we have to accept the fact that they will not come from any place close by. I do hope to see local produce in Earth Fare as the summer progresses, however, and the natural crop cycles play out.

In the meantime, my supply of steel-cut oats has taken a beating this weekend (they take a ridiculously long time to cook, but emerge from the pot chewy and creamy, subtly sweet after I add just a hint of brown sugar and a scattering of raisins), and the freshly ground peanut/dark chocolate mixture my husband requested seems to be dwindling as well. A return trip to the outer edges of Earth Fare may be in order.

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