The last two weeks have been filled with challenges. An already busy time at work has been made more complicated by falling sick with whatever illness has been going around the office. Then, as I was starting to feel like I was on the mend, Keith came home with his own office flu, which, because of our living arrangement, he had no choice but to share with me. It’s been a short (thanks to ColdFX) but intense bout of flu: it began on Friday afternoon with that scratchy throat sensation, mild enough that you can almost convince yourself that you’re really just thirsty and not actually getting sick again, and hit its peak with an intense fever all throughout Saturday that finally broke in the early morning hours of Sunday. Sleeplessness has peppered the last five days. Though I’m more or less over the worst of the flu, my cough still lingers, loud, hacking and wet, and the primary cause of my sleeplessness for the last 48 hours.
Worse than the first flu and the other flu, though, is the fact that my oven had been out of commission throughout this period. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal on balance, but without an oven, my favorite meal of the day–breakfast–is nigh on impossible. No toast! No bread of any kind! Well, that’s not entirely true, and yes, I know I’m being dramatic. Because I can already hear some of you shaking your heads and saying, “why didn’t you just go buy some bread?”, well, I confess that I did. A reputedly good loaf of bread from a popular artisan chain (the incongruence of those two words together…). And, without naming names, let me just state for the record that the bread was not good. It was a perfectly serviceable loaf and I’m sure many would consider it tasty, but I’ve been spoiled by my own delicious sourdough. This disappointing purchased loaf made terrible toast. It was dry and brittle, like sawdust. No flavour to speak of. I’ll get over it, of course. My oven was fixed just yesterday and it seems to be working much better than it every has before. But it’ll be a few days more before I’ll be able to make myself any toast-worthy bread, and so I’ll need to keep on with my contingency breakfast for a few days longer. Thankfully, this contingency plan isn’t really such bad thing.
You see, before I loved toast, I loved oatmeal. I grew up eating it most winter days and, even though I didn’t really appreciate it much as a youngster, oatmeal became a place for me to get creative with food before I really cared about food as much as I do now. My early experiments with oatmeal were mostly limited to toppings and flavourings: strawberries and walnuts. Bananas and pecans. Raisins, peanut butter and grated orange peel. The goal, of course, was a tasty and satisfying breakfast, and these combinations certainly fit the bill. What I neglected to focus on with these frills, however, was the oatmeal itself. As I’ve discovered more recently, oatmeal, when treated right, can be a thing of beauty.
The oatmeal I’m talking about is April Bloomfield‘s recipe, which I came to discover via Luisa Weiss‘s blog, and it is, in a word, delicious. This recipe stands apart from other primarily because of three key components: first, the recipe uses a ratio of three parts liquid to one part oatmeal. As a lifelong two-parts-liquid-one-part-oatmeal maker, this new ratio was nothing short of a revelation. Second, this recipe calls for a combination of rolled and steel cut oats, and the result of this mix of oats and a higher ratio of liquid is nothing short of spectacular: the rolled oats soften and melt, seeming to disappear in the milky cooking liquidly, while the steel cut oats retain their texture and lend a satisfying toothsome quality to the dish. Finally, the salt. Salt in oatmeal! Salted oatmeal? Anyway, whatever. The point is: don’t skip the salt.
I love this oatmeal, and I love it plain. That’s not to say that I’m above dressing it up–it’s really tasty with a drizzle of maple syrup or topped with a spoonful of good jam or apple butter. But with a small pat of butter and a few minutes to really savour it, let’s just say that I don’t think I’ll have much of a problem going without toast for a few days more.
Serves 1 (recipe is easily multiplied)
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 cup steel cut oats
1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt, to taste
Toppings, to taste
1. Heat the milk, water and salt over high heat to a simmer, making sure to keep an eye on the pot so that it doesn’t boil over (this can happen very quickly). When the liquid is simmering, add both types of oats and reduce the heat to medium, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain the simmer and stirring occasionally. Cooking time will be between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on your oatmeal and your cooktop.
2. When the steel cut oats have just cooked and the liquid has become thick from the melted rolled oats, remove from heat and taste for seasoning. Serve in a bowl and top it the way you like.