Sunday, October 26, 2008
Ginger Chocolate Almond Granola
Fall has been good to us lately. I seem to remember much more rain this time last year. There were more dark and cloudy days. On my morning runs along the bike trail, I’d see so many sodden red and yellow leaves stuck like papier mache to black pavement. This morning the leaves were wet, but only because of the dew of the cold October mornings we’ve had. Little rain, more blue skies to act as the backdrop to those technicolor leaves.
There was quite a bit of blue today, and the sun, in it’s low angle, peeked out from behind a few fluffy clouds to illuminate the yellows and oranges. It’s funny how each season has its colors. Spring is rose and yellow-lime green from new buds, with hints of violet purple from the crocuses. Winter is deep pine green, if you live in the Northwest, with lots of grey from clouds and foggy mornings. Winter is also white, as some mornings you may look out the window and find that a cloak has been pulled over your front yard. Our whiteouts come not from snow, but from a marine fog that will never let you forget where you are. If you don’t touch the waters of the Sound that day, the Sound may reach out and touch you.
Fall has many colors to give, but the ones that pop up everywhere are school bus yellow, orange and brick red. Fall also gives us smells. Today while jogging along the trail, admiring the confetti of leaves and low sunlight, I smelled cloves. Sometimes there is a mild cinnamon in the air too along with the chill. No wonder this time of year we turn to spices with hearty, deeply-colored foods to make our meals - orange pumpkins, profoundly green kale, and orange-red foraged mushrooms like chanterelles and the lobster variety I saw at the market. We incorporate the smells… spicy pumpkin pie with cloves and cardamom, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg too. The spices have also found their way into my kale and root veggies. Their piquancy wakes up your tongue, warms your mouth with a low, slow heat. A penetrating, sustained heat that is surprisingly subtle, despite is power.
The most attractive of all the warming spices is surely ginger. It’s my absolute favorite of all the spices that we associate with fall and winter cooking. It’s actually a rhizome, not a seed as most spices are. We can use it dried and ground, or peeled fresh and grated so the powerfully hot juice runs out with the pulp. China grows more of this rhizome than any other place in the world, but we import lots of it from Jamaica too. Yes, unfortunately it’s not a local food. It’s one of those exotic ingredients that we’ve come to see as quite normal here in the US. Like chocolate and coffee, we don’t really produce much, if any, but we enjoy it in abundance.
So on this cold, dewy October morning with Mark still asleep in bed, I decided to make a batch of something spicy and warm. I love granola. I love ginger. Why not combine the two? This recipe is so simple. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t make their own granola on a weekly basis. The fresh stuff is so great, and you avoid having to buy the stuff from the boxes or bulk bins that use extra oils and way way too much sugar. It takes 30 minutes, from start to finish. I added almonds, honey and maple syrup, and then some chopped chocolate. Divine.
My feet are freezing against the cold kitchen floor, and the windows are fogged from the cold outside – but the heat of the oven will fix that. The oats and almonds are toasting and the smell of ginger is wafting into every room. I have nowhere to be but right here, stretching my neck toward the windowpane to watch the sun peek out.
This to me is Fall - hearty and warming food, the oven on early to heat the house. We’ll let the rain come eventually and the greyer skies too, but for now I'm having my Fall.
Ginger Chocolate Almond Granola
This is almost too decadent for breakfast! I enjoy using a candied ginger from Trader Joe's that is uncrystallized, so it isn't gritty and too sweet like crystallized ginger can be. Green & Black's chocolate is fantastic if you can get it, in this recipe I used the 72% baking bar. If you can't find this particular brand, try to get chocolate that's organic and fair trade. This granola would make a great dessert served with some honey-sweetened yogurt and black cherries.
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons unhulled or hulled sesame seeds
1 - 2 tablespoons whole flax seeds
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dried ground ginger
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup uncrystallized candied ginger, chopped finely and loosely packed
1/5 cup dark chocolate, chopped, 70% or higher
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together first four ingredients. sprinkle in the vanilla in drops while stirring. Then add the honey and maple syrup, and stir to coat all the dry ingredients well. You may have to really work this for a bit to get all the clumps out - but if you like clumps, just add more honey and don't stir as much. Once all the dry ingredients are coated, put in the dried and fresh ginger, cinnamon and salt. Stir well. Place mixture on a large baking sheet with raised sides, so your granola doesn't slide off and make a mess. Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. The granola should be brown and golden all the way through (stirring once or twice during baking will allow even toasting.) Cool the granola completely - and I mean totally, otherwise the chocolate will melt all over the place... but hmmm, maybe that's a good thing... so go ahead and add the candied ginger and chocolate. Serve it up with vanilla soymilk. Yum.