Oats are a greatly underused grain. The collective imagination doesn’t seem to perceive much further than oatmeal, with whole groats mostly overlooked in favor of barley, wheat berries, kamut, bulger, etc. I, myself, had been guilty of the oversight for years, until I discovered this amazing recipe, which I adapted from one provided by Maria Speck. The oats don’t taste like oatmeal, nor do they have a similar texture. They have their own unique essence. Now that I’ve discovered how fantastic they are, I plan to devise many more recipes using them.
As whole grain salads go, this one is nearly perfect. At least for us. Paulo and I adore blue cheese and olives. This salad creates a warm, earthy matrix upon which to present those tasty items. The wonderfully meaty grains counterbalance the pungent cheese and olives, while the crunch of the walnuts provides a contrasting texture. Herbal thyme adds another hint of complexity. So very delicious. I usually encourage people to alter recipes, to add or substitute other ingredients, etc. But I wouldn’t make that recommendation in this case. This salad is so perfectly balanced, that changing any element might skew it. Try it the way it is. You’ll develop an entirely new appreciation for the humble little oat berry.
Warm Oat Berry Salad with Blue Cheese and Olives
1 cup whole oats (oat groats)
1 T olive oil
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
2/3 cup green olives, coarsely chopped or sliced
2 tsp red wine vinegar
4 oz pungent blue cheese, crumbled
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the oats and simmer until they are cooked through. Drain well.
In the meantime heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the walnuts, thyme, and a little salt, and saute until the walnuts are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. (Stir fairly often so that the nuts don’t scorch.) Add the drained oats and olives, along with some freshly cracked black pepper. Cook, stirring, until all ingredients are heated through. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle the vinegar over top.
Sprinkle the cheese over top and gently fold the cheese into the oats. (You will want the cheese to melt somewhat into the salad, but still retain some noticeable pieces.) Add salt only if needed. (Most cheese, as well as olives, are fairly salty.) Add more black pepper, if desired, to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.