Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ingredient: OATMEAL

Scottish dog, Irish oatmeal.

I love oatmeal. Right now, as fall begins its wet descent over New York, oatmeal tastes like nothing else. It’s hot and thick, and oh so comforting. Call me crazy, but I have a belief that oatmeal is in our genes. Our ancestors were eating whole grains for breakfast, looking out over the rain, cursing what the humidity was doing to their hair.

Oatmeal is part of my more recent family make-up as well. My father eats oatmeal for everyday for breakfast (plain; apples and cinnamon is for pansies you hear). I’m not talking some days, or even most days. Every. Single. Day. Rain or shine. Summer or winter. He’s eating oatmeal like it’s saving his life. Which it is!

According to the American Cancer Society, eating oatmeal on a regular basis can significantly reduce your chance of developing heart disease, which is a leading cause of death here in the US. And because it’s essentially a big bowl of insoluble fiber, oatmeal will regulate your blood sugar (making it great for diabetics and anyone trying to lose weight), reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol, and make you poop (hey, Alicia Silverstone claims constipation is becoming a national problem). Oatmeal has also got tons of nutrients that a lot of us are deficient in (iron, for one, for me).

There are a variety of oats on the market. You can buy rolled oats, ground oats, steel-cut oats, and quick-cooking oats. Keep in mind that when you’re cooking with oats the type does matter, so you want to be sure you buy the kind that is specified in the recipe. There are also a lot of Vasios-house prohibited flavored and instant oatmeals. But let’s be honest, in Scotland, the oatmeal Mecca, they don’t do this instant-oatmeal-in-the-microwave BS: they make it old school, on the stove, using arm power and whiskey. Anyway, believe me when I say that the Scots make one thick oatmeal. But that’s probably because when you visit, even in July, Scotland looks like this:

In the summer I like having my oatmeal Swiss-style, also known as muesli. Muesli is just uncooked oats, usually paired with dried fruit and nuts.

Really, though, I just love that when I eat a bowl of oatmeal it practically sings to me:

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee;

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.*

Do your cornflakes do that? I didn’t think so.

Chewy Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I just like the nubly texture and nutty flavor of oats. To give you a sense of my tastes, I’d choose crunchy over smooth peanut butter, and a minestrone over a purée. If that makes me a plebian, then bring on the mead. Or I’ll just make these cookies, which I bulk up with extra oats. And cherries. And chocolate. And a bit of salt. They are insanely good. Case in point, my friend bit into one for the first time, laughed, and said, “holy crap.”

This makes like 2 dozen biggish cookies. Actually, I’m taking that back. It makes two dozen cookies. Because who on Earth actually ever gets the amount of cookies from the dough that the recipe claims that it should make? What are we, mice?


2 sticks butter, softened (as in, leave the stick out on your counter for an hour or more)
1 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups rolled oats

½ cup or so dried cherries

½ cup or so chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat until incorporated.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.

Stir in the oats, the chocolate chips, and the cherries. I’ve approximated the amount of chocolate chips and cherries because I feel that cookie add-ons are really a matter of preference. For example, I like a lot of chocolate chips and cherries, so I probably put in at least a half to two-thirds a cup of each. Eyeball it. Start by adding in a half cup of each and mix them in. If you can tell you’d like to be able to get more filling in every bite, add away.

Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will help keep the cookies chewy.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-13 minutes, until golden brown but not too hard looking on top.

Enjoy with a hot cup of tea and a good book. *Like a collection of poems by W.B. Yeats. Which includes the poem that my oatmeal sings to me; “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”


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