Oatmeal seems like just another thing. Like something your mother made you eat, or something that seems frightfully good for you, or something that your conscience (which you ignore) instructs you to consume. Never would you think to describe oatmeal as delicious, luscious, decadent. Surely, you reason, I must be consulting a defective thesaurus. But this oatmeal is wonderful, worthy of those adjectives and many others superlative. It is rich, creamy, and fragrant, with hints of spice and sweetness, all counterpointed by the crunch of meaty nuts. And the oats themselves, though they turn creamy, they don’t turn to mush, each retaining a core of resilience that lends a pleasant firmness in texture. This oatmeal is so good that Paulo eats it five times a week for breakfast, has been doing so for years, and has no plans to stop anytime in the future.
Oatmeal is not simply a meal. It is a dish with a long history, dating back millennia into the mists of time. I am not trying to be dramatic. Really. Each and every time I make this oatmeal, I think of oatmeal in general, and of other similar porridges, whether made from cracked wheat or millet or cornmeal. Rice or quinoa or lentils. These porridges, and others besides, have fueled the human race in every part of the world for as long as grain has been cultivated, and even before. Without them, I’m not sure how well the human race would have survived. Blame it on my degree in history, if you will, but I do think about such things. Our ancestors might not have had cinnamon or apples, or other luxuries, but oatmeal, this oatmeal, any porridge that we eat today, connects us through long history to the nameless and faceless many who came before. So there!
We, being spoiled, like our little luxuries, and this oatmeal is loaded with them to the brim, though each is entirely healthful, so you need not feel guilty in the least. You can, of course, make endless substitutions to reflect your whims, using different dried fruits, spices, and nuts for example. I have considered making this with pears, a dash of cardamom, and chopped pecans, or with apricots, nutmeg, and almonds. Mmmm. If you desire a vegan dish, simply substitute a non-dairy milk for the regular kind. But pick one that has some creaminess, that being vital to the final texture. And come time to eat, top it however you like. Paulo stirs in a scoop of peanut butter or drizzles on real maple syrup, while I prefer pouring milk over until it is swimming.
This oatmeal takes some time and attention to make, but the end product is well worth the effort. And the quantity will last you for days. The directions are a bit precise, but they result from much trial and error, so I wanted to pass along instructions that would give you the best result. Enjoy this oatmeal as much as we do, and perhaps you might think of those who came before us.
Paulo’s Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
1 cup milk
3 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup dried apples, chopped
4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup agave nectar (or honey or maple syrup)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1T ground flaxseeds
In an uncovered heavy saucepan bring the milk, water, and salt just to a boil. (Be very careful as the liquid reaches a boil, because it will foam up and overflow very quickly at that point.) Add the oats and apples, stir, then cover and turn the burner to its lowest setting. Cook for 30 minutes without lifting the lid. After 30 minutes, stir, then continue to cook for another 30 minutes, stirring regularly. (The closer the oatmeal is to being done, the more often it will need to be stirred to prevent its sticking to the bottom.) After the second 30 minutes have passed, stir a last time, then check the consistency. It should be very creamy, but mostly done. If this is the case, turn off the stove and allow the pan to sit, covered, for at least 15 minutes. If not, cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until that consistency is reached, and then allow it to sit.
After the oatmeal has rested, stir in the cinnamon and agave nectar, then the walnuts and flaxseeds. Eat warm as is, or with milk poured over, or drizzled with maple syrup, or however else you please.