During a recent YouTube video binge session, I stumbled across this gem of Ilana Glazer, my favorite comedian as of lately from Comedy Central's Broad City. The title "Cooking a Classic Dish" immediately hooked me and once I saw that the "dish" she was referring to was cereal I knew exactly what we'd be talking about this week.
Remember the game desert island? You know, if you were stuck on a desert island and could only watch one movie/read one book/listen to one CD, what would it be? My mind obviously always jumps to food when playing this game, so much so that I have begun to label select items as my desert island foods when describing them to others. Like Montgomery's Cheddar, my desert island cheese. Pie, my desert island dessert. Apples, my desert island fruit. But, among all of these foods, cereal is that one that consistently reigns supreme as my all time favorite, could eat it at any time of day, always makes my entire being burst with rays of sunshine, desert island food.
If the sad trombone sound just went off in your head, I apologize. But what can I say, I'm a bit of nut when it comes to cereal, a label that extends back to my toddler years. Despite my propensity for dessert, you could typically find young Maddie asking for bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios or Oat Squares after dinner instead of a scoop of ice cream. This trend persisted through every subsequent school stage and ushered new varieties into the fold with each passing year. Middle school brought the daily after school bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries. High school, the mixing began, typically a combination of Special K, any assortment of Kashi, granola, and some sort of dried fruit. This particular habit was inspired by my mother, but through recent investigation I learned that it carries over to quite a few of my extended relatives as well. The habit has stuck ever since and now its a rarity for me to eat a "pure" bowl of cereal.
I'm sure this cereal lineup sounds pretty dull given the plethora of sugary, infinately more appealing options available these days, but they are very intentional selections. If I ever kept a box of Captain Crunch or Cinnamon Toast Crunch around, I could almost guarantee I'd eat nothing else until the box was emptied. Which is why I only reserve my sugar cereal intake to special occasions, like visiting friends who can keep it in their house without succumbing to it for every meal.
What hit home most for me from Ilana's cooking video was how much I actually relate to the parodical cereal ritual she depicts. As silly as it may sound for such an idiot proof food, I do put a lot of weight on the small details. Like which bowl/spoon to designate for which cereal variety or how much milk to pour for optimal moisture without sogginess. Seems trivial, but it really does make all the difference.
In honor of the enormous impact cereal has made on my life, I elected to make a batch of my favorite granola. This recipe has circulated around the internet for a while now and for good reason; it is to die for. Even with a yield this large, I can typically only keep it around for a maximum of two weeks before it's depleted. Its a very flexible recipe so have fun with it and feel free to add any combination of nuts/dried fruit/chocolate/spices to make it your own.
6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2-3 cups unsweetened coconut chips
3-4 cups nuts/seeds (I like to do 1 cup each of pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup olive oil
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 300 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil and maple syrup. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir to evenly coat. Divide the mixture equally between the two prepared sheet pans, spread into an even layer, and bake. Stir the granola on the sheet trays every 10-15 minutes until golden brown, about 40 minutes total.
Cool completely and transfer to airtight containers. Serve with your favorite yogurt and fruit, straight up with great milk, or, my personal favorite, sprinkled in/on top of pancakes!
Yield: Makes about 3 qts.