Everyone who knows me knows that I tend toward the hippie side of things more often than not. In college, my friends staged various “interventions” on my behalf because of this tendency. They went something like this:
Friend: Katrina, you can no longer own a hemp wallet.
Me: Quit harshin my cool!
Friend: Katrina, no self-respecting 21 year old woman owns shoes with flames painted on them. Please throw them away.
You get the picture. It’s not my fault, though. I grew up with 2 aging hippie parents who drove me to folk festivals in this car (well, that car, but in bright aqua green). I spent a lot of time dancing barefoot to bluegrass in peasant skirts. Sure, now I dress in JCrew and probably hear the term “jock” more often than hippie, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten my roots. And so prepare yourselves, because this post is pretty crunchy of me.
It starts in a hippie grocery store, Rainbow Grocery of San Francisco (would you believe that I saw a big green eurovan camper parked outside?? no lie!). Everyone who knows me ALSO knows that I love food shopping, especially in fun grocery stores. Rainbow Grocery fits that bill. It has the most extensive bulk section I’ve ever seen, the results of which you can see above. I bought no less than 10 items in bags. They had all sorts of crazy crap I’ve never even heard of. In an effort to keep this blog accessible (I know some of you shop in Stop n Shop or Safeway or places that don’t contain bins of nutritional yeast or kamut), I got ingredients I thought non-hippies could find in normal stores.
Which brings me to the point of the post here, this granola. Let me just say that I see recipes for granola all the damn time. Most of the time I think, yes, that looks nice. But I’ve never really had the urge to make any of them. For one, I’m not the hugest granola fan ever. Sure I like it in yogurt or with way too much milk, but on its own I sometimes can’t handle the simultaneous sweetness and dry-yet-somehow-greasiness of it all. And I don’t buy it often because it’s damn expensive if you want any sort of decent granola.
But when I saw this recipe, I knew it was for me. I can’t even tell you why. It was cosmic. The ingredients just made sense, and I could see it would be subtly sweet and crunchy and wonderful. It also billed itself as a pain in the ass. I love it when recipes are upfront with me. Everyone who knows me also ALSO knows that I’m somewhat of a masochist. But I don’t like being surprised about the pain I’m getting myself into. When I look up a flight of stairs and someone says, run up and down these for 5 minutes, I can do that. But when I embark on a recipe I think is going to be a cinch and it ends up taking me 4 hours, that I do not like.
And to be honest, since I prepared for this being a bitch of a recipe, it really didn’t seem so bad while I was doing it. Really, honestly, it’s just toasting like 4 or 5 things. Sure, each one takes anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, so you have to kind of constantly hover around the oven. But that’s it. I would even say this recipe is kinda easy.
But I don’t want to say that to you and have you try it and be like, WHY DID YOU MAKE ME DO THAT IT WAS HORRIBLE YOU’RE THE WORST FRIEND EVER AND BY THE WAY YOU NEED TO CUT YOUR HAIR YOU DAMN DIRTY HIPPIE. So let’s leave it at “inconvenient” and I’ll let you form your own judgments about the process.
But do you see how pretty it is? All warm golden and bright jewel tones. The best part about this granola, imho, is the subtle flavors from the toasted coconut and sesame seeds. It just adds a little something extra to the usual oats and nuts and dried fruit. Plus with only 1/4 cup of oil for about 65790856 servings, I’m pretty sure this is the healthiest granola I’ve ever consumed and still enjoyed.
So if you’ve been waiting for a granola to really speak to you, hear this one out. I think it’s a winner, and not just because I grew up riding in a big green VW van, friends.
Terribly Inconvenient Granola
from Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm
6 cups Old Fashioned Oats (bought in bulk these are ridiculously cheap)
1 1/2 cups of assorted raw (unsalted) nuts (I used walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds)
1 cup dried fruit (dried cranberries and raisins for me, again, because they are super cheap and also delicious)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut
1 cup sesame seeds (these might be harder to find, but Rainbow Grocery had 2 kinds! so I’m sure your local health food store will have at least 1)
Honey (I used 1/4 cup, but I’m a too-sweet-phobe. here’s where you can splurge for some good quality honey…I bought 1/2 cup of some fancy ass tropical honey from the bulk section and it was like $2. well worth it.)
1/4 cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
Most granola recipes will tell you to throw all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, then pour on the oil and honey and stir it up, then tip the whole thing out on to a couple of sheet pans and bake. Don’t do that. All of the dry ingredients take different amounts of time to brown. Coconut and nuts tend to brown very quickly while oats take longer. And, due to a high sugar content, dried fruit will be burnt before everything else is even warm. And another thing: what’s the thinking behind coating nuts and dried fruit with oil? Why is that necessary? The answer is it’s not.
Instead of throwing everything together, we’re going to brown each of the ingredients separately. (This is were the inconvenient part comes in.) That way the nuts will be toasted to perfection, the coconut will be perfectly brown and the cranberries won’t be cooked at all. All of the ingredients will be at their best and be bursting with flavor. (Incidentally, this is also the method for making the world’s greatest roasted vegetables.)
Start with the nuts. I’m using pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and pecans this time. (I roughly chopped the pecans. If I was using almonds or hazelnuts I would chop them as well.) Spread the nuts out on sheet pans and pop them in a 350 degree oven until they are lightly browned. Do me a favor and stay in the kitchen while you’re toasting the nuts. Nuts are notorious for going from raw to burnt in the blink of an eye. Save yourself the heartache and check on them every couple of minutes. When they are lightly toasted, remove from the oven and let cool for a couple minutes, then tip them in to your largest bowl.
Next toasted your sesame seeds. And add them to the bowl.
Now you’re ready to toast the coconut. Here’s the thing about coconut: it’ll burn even faster than nuts. In fact the usual progression with coconut is raw, raw, raw, raw, black. Never turn your back on coconut, not even for a minute. Coconut is not to be trusted.
While you’re checking on your coconut, give it a stir. Stir the browner bits of coconut around the edges into the center. When you’re done the coconut should be golden.
Let it cool a bit and tip it into the bowl with the nuts. You can add your dried fruit to the bowl now too. If you’re using anything larger than a dried cranberry you’ll need to roughly chop it into smaller pieces.
Now we’re ready to move on to the oats that will make up the bulk of your granola. Pour the oats in to your second largest bowl. Into a large measuring cup pour quarter of a cup of canola oil and quarter of a cup of honey. Put the oil/honey mixture into the microwave and heat until the honey has loosened up a bit.
Add most of the oil and honey to the oats and start stirring. You want to lightly coat the oats with oil and the more you stir the more evenly it will be distributed. You can add more oil, but you really shouldn’t have to if you stir it enough.
Spread the oats onto a sheet pan and bake until the oats are lightly toasted. You might need to stir the oats a bit the same way you stirred the coconut. When the oats have stopped looking pale remove from the oven and let cool.
Add the cooled oats to your giant bowl and stir everything together. Now you need to sprinkle your granola with kosher salt. Trust me. You’ll need at least a quarter of a teaspoon but you can add it a bit at a time if it’s less scary. The salt really pulls all the flavors together, so don’t skip it.
Give everything another good stir and you’re done! Store your granola in an air tight container and it should last a couple of weeks.