Civilized Oatmeal

18 February 2014

Oats were one of the last major crops to be domesticated and it took people a while to embrace them as anything but horse food. In fact the ancient Romans, who grew plenty of oats for their horses, regarded any people who ate oats as barbarians. Too bad for the Romans soldiers who had to face “oat eating barbarians” that greatly outweighed them because oats have so much more protein than the Romans’ beloved wheat. Thankfully, these days eating granola or oatmeal raisin cookies won’t get you called a barbarian, but oatmeal can still be plagued with a papery flavor that requires so much milk, butter, sugar or syrup to make it taste good that you might start to wonder if it’s still part of a healthy breakfast. Tea to the rescue!  Cooking oats with a little bit of black tea cuts through that paper taste and adds enough herbal flavor and aroma that you can enjoy your oatmeal with civilized amounts of added  sugar.  My favorite way to finish the job is with some toasted nuts, (hazelnuts, cashews and pecans in particular) and dried fruit like raisins, dried cherries, or apricots. Of course a little milk and some maple syrup or honey is still in order, but not so much that you’ll wonder if you are a barbarian!Overnight oatmeal
Soak steel cut oats in a cup of brewed black tea plus milk, almond milk, soy milk, or water in a ration of 2:1 (two cups liquid, one cup oats.) Soak overnight or for at least 8 hours. In the morning warm quickly in a saucepan. Add toppings as desired.

Stovetop oats
Simmer one cup of steel cut oats in two cups of water and one cup brewed black tea for 20 to 30 minutes until they’ve reached your preferred consistency.  Some other ideas for toppings:

Heavy cream, yogurt, or condensed milk
Apple sauce
Maple syrup, maple sugar, brown sugar,
Chopped nuts, pumpkin, chia, hemp, or sunflower seeds
Fresh and dried fruits
Preserves or jams
Chopped bacon or crumbled sausage
Poached eggs
Cheese
Herbs and chilies