Oats aren't just for breakfast anymore

Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013, 9:28 am
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By Saimi Bergmann
It's a recurring theme.

When you see Top 10 lists of super foods for weight loss, lowering cholesterol, reducing risk of type 2 diabetes, improving colon health and lowering blood pressure, there's one food group that's always present -- whole grains.

Perhaps you've tried to up your grain intake by switching to whole wheat bread, brown rice or bran cereal. Maybe you've added barley to your soup, or quinoa to your pilafs.

But what about oats? Oatmeal -- humble, often maligned -- is not just for breakfast anymore. Steel cut oats, which are chopped instead of flaked, can be a starting point for savory side dishes. That's right, savory. Put away that brown sugar and grab the garlic.

Steel cut oats are similar in texture to wheat berries, but with a flavor palate all their own. They shine as a vegetarian meal, but are equally at home when paired with beef, pork or chicken. They are forgiving and adaptable, thus you don't really need a recipe.

Some folks like them cooked for 30 to 40 minutes, but I prefer them chewy, so I usually stop at 20 to 25 minutes. Some like them cooked nearly dry, like a pilaf, but I prefer them a bit soupy, like a risotto.

While testing a few recipes, I also tested several brands of steel cut oats, from the inexpensive Millville found at Aldi's all the way up to McCann's, the pricey Irish import. The McCann's and Bob's Red Mill had a slightly stronger oat scent and taste than the Millville or Quaker, but the difference barely was noticeable when made as plain breakfast oatmeal, and disappeared entirely when made into savory dishes with onions and garlic.

The basic savory recipe starts with boiling the oats in beef broth with chopped onions and garlic. From there, you can add various combinations of vegetables. You might like spinach with red peppers, topped with feta just before serving. Or consider adding peas and oregano and topping with shaved asiago.

When you tire of oats as pilaf or risotto, try shaping them into veggie burgers. Merry Graham won a contest by Bob's Red Mill with her recipe that substitutes oats for the more traditional rice in a veggie patty.

When following any recipe using steel cut oats, be sure to check the label for cooking instructions. Different brands require different amounts of liquid, from as little as three parts water to one part oats to as much as six parts water to one part oats.

Basic steel cut oats
1 cup steel cut oats
Up to 4 cups beef broth (or water and 2 bouillon cubes)
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Bring broth to a boil; add oats, stir. After 5 minutes, add bay leaf, onion, garlic and thyme. Cover, simmer on low for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on how chewy you like your oats. Add more water if necessary. When nearly done, stir in additional vegetables, such as spinach, arugula, zucchini, peas, asparagus or bell pepper.
When dish is done, let sit for 2 to 3 minutes, then serve. Optional toppings: feta, shaved asiago, grated gouda, chopped scallions, fresh parsley. Serves 4-6 as side.

Irish oatmeal risotto
2 cups steel cut oatmeal
3 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 cups unsalted defatted chicken or beef broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Pinch saffron for color (optional)

Heat olive oil in heavy saucepan over medium high heat. When hot, add shallots and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes. Stir in the oats and saute for about 5 minutes or until oats are glistening.
Add hot broth 1/2 cup at a time (and saffron if used), stirring continuously, until each 1/2 cup has been absorbed. When oats have absorbed enough broth to be a rich, creamy texture with a bit of chewiness left, remove from heat.
Stir in parsley, lemon juice, cheese, salt and pepper. Serves 8.
Recipe source: McCann's Irish Oatmeal, mccanns.ie

Black bean porridge patties
2/3 cup steel cut oats
1 2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
15 ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained, divided
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup minced cilantro for patties
1/2 cup chopped cilantro for pico
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup gluten free oat flour
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/2 chopped fresh tomatoes
2 green onions, chopped, additional for garnish
1/2 cup Picante salsa
2/3 cup Greek yogurt

In bowl, combine oats and water, stir and set aside for three hours. Do not drain water after oats have soaked.*
Pour softened oats and soaking water in a 4-quart or larger saucepan with garlic, water and salt; cover and cook on high or medium-high for 9 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Add 1 cup black beans, cumin, and red pepper, stir constantly and cook 4 minutes, uncovered.
Pour hot porridge into large bowl and stir in 1/3 cup cilantro and baking powder; add all but about 2 tablespoons of the oat flour until uniform in consistency.
Sprinkle a work surface with about 1 tablespoon of remaining oat flour. Scoop out about 1/2 cup oat mixture for each of four patties. Sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon of oat flour; press down with the back of a metal spatula and shape with hands.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat grapeseed oil on high. Fry patties on both sides 5 minutes, adjusting heat between high and medium-high, until patties are brown and crispy.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl toss together remaining black beans, 1/2 cup cilantro, tomatoes, green onions and picante salsa. Top patties with Pico de Gallo and dollop with Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with cilantro and green onions. Yields 4 patties.

*Quicker alternative: Combine oats and garlic with 2 2/3 cups water in a 4-quart saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cover, adjust heat to medium and cook for 14 minutes or until water has almost completely absorbed into oats. Uncover and add black beans, cumin and red pepper, stir constantly and cook 4 minutes. Continue by pouring into bowl.


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.

(More History)