In my husbands efforts for a healthier living and digestion started looking to whole grains for breakfast. Since breakfast wasn’t something I normally ate he just made it “functional food” meaning he would cook a big pot of grains with some nuts and dried fruit along with some chia and flax meal. He would package it up and freeze it. Then for breakfast he would thaw one, warm it in the microwave and then pour some cold milk on it to loosen the thick clump of grains. These breakfast weren’t necessarily tasty, they we’re functional.
Last fall we happened to be eating at one of our favorite restaurants in St. Paul and they had a quinoa oatmeal on the menu. I was curious so I ordered it and was pleasantly surprised. It was quinoa with steel cut oats along with fresh blueberries, chopped nuts, and some cinnamon. This got me thinking about my husbands breakfasts and that maybe there was a way I could make them tastier, keeping them just as healthy and something I would enjoy too. That lead me to creating Quinoa Oatmeal with Persimmons and Pears. Basically this was a riff on what I had at the restaurant but I was wanting to highlight seasonal flavors which lead me to persimmons and pears. As winter was coming I got thinking about a new flavor profile. This lead me to chocolate, cherries, and cranberries. All of which lead me to teff as being the new grain. With a few tweaks we had Teff Oatmeal with Chocolate, Chestnuts, and Winter Fruits.
Since my seasonal food is set up on a 3 month calendar rotation that meant March was the beginning of spring flavor profiles. This got me thinking yet again. The first thing to decide on was the grain. To me nothing says Spring like Passover. This got me thinking about ancient times and flavors which lead me to Kamut. I also knew I wanted to do sliced almonds as the nut. Then I got thinking about the fruit. What fruits say spring. For me it’s all about the berries. Although the farmers markets are up and running yet one of the first things we see in the berries is strawberries. I did think about raspberries but for whatever reason it just didn’t speak the imagination the way strawberries did. I thought about dehydrated strawberries as the dried fruit and got excited. I went ahead and bought a pack from Costco cut them in half an dehydrated them. Being that these are ripened in shipment I knew this wouldn’t give me the best flavor but I wanted to try the technique anyway. They looked less than appealing coming out of the dehydrator and then ended up molding. I guess we didn’t dry them enough. Thankfully one of my last trips to the grocery store I happened to spot dried strawberries in the bulk bins. I also picked up some fresh strawberries.
Now that I knew what my flavor profile was it was time to come up with a spice. Conventional spices didn’t excite me. Not knowing where to turn in my spice drawers I instead turned to The Spice Companion. I looked up strawberry in the index and was lead to Hibiscus! The excitement and intrigue was enough to keep me going. I looked through the information offered about hibiscus and discovered that there was a recipe for a spice blend using hibiscus called Rose Mallow. This is a combination of hibiscus pedals, ground galangal, star anise, and cayenne pepper. The result was something of a mauve powder that smelt of black licorice. Being that I am not a fan of black licorice I was concerned but stuck with it having had success with another recommendation in the book that I highly questioned (it too turned out amazing).
Because Kamut is such a hard grain and steel-cut oats are not my husband came up with the idea to cook the kamut in the pressure cooker first which turned out amazing! The kamut ended up plumping up and getting a nice al dente chew to it. We then drained the water from the kamut (leaving the kamut in the pot), added the steel-cut oats, the water needed for the oats, and about a pound an a half of quartered strawberries. We then cooked it again just long enough to cook the oats.
Cooking the strawberries in the pressure cooker allowed them to fully break down and infuse their flavor into the grains and add some body to the mix. I then mixed in the Rose Mallow spice blend. Everything became this intense mauve color, the aroma was mazing and alluring, and the flavor was intriguing. At that post we packed it up like normal which is 8 ounce Ball freezer containers. (Every night we set one out to thaw.)
To put it together we warm it in the microwave and steam some milk. We each have 4 ounces of the grain mixture, 2 ounces of steamed milk, a drizzle of honey, sprinkling of sliced almonds, some chopped up dried dates and strawberries, and topped it off with a fresh strawberry. What’s amazing is the Rose Mallow. Although the initial aroma was strong go black licorice it actually was quite a subtle flavor and pair perfectly with what was going on in the dish. I think the best was to describe it is to say the essence of the black licorice taste was to strawberry is what smoke is to meat.
I love that I took a gamble, with with something I hadn’t tried, and have now expanded my culinary mind. This whole grain breakfast is no longer only functional but delicious too. I think if there was anything I would do to tweak this recipe it would be to maybe try cooking rhubarb in the pressure cooker with the grains rather than strawberry so that it was a rhubarb strawberry dish. Now, that’s spring!