The notion of savoury foods for breakfast, as opposed to sweet, is far from new.
Bacon and eggs aside, a bowl of sweetened cereal doused with milk accompanied by buttered toast and jam is the norm. Yoghurt is the sugary fruit-on-the-bottom variety. Hot oatmeal is topped with brown sugar and raisins, if not maple syrup.
As a child I, too, favoured my oats slathered with margarine, bathed with milk and showered with sugar. At a certain point in my teens, I began to veer in a savoury direction with most foods. I no longer found dessert for breakfast satisfying or appealing. I ate my oatmeal seasoned with salt and pepper and traded milk for plain yoghurt. Even the occasional drizzle of olive oil hit the bowl.
It was still a kind of comfort food. But it seemed that oatmeal porridge could never be perceived as anything but bland, no matter its accoutrements. I soon moved on to other more interesting breakfast offerings, taking cues from the traditional savoury breakfasts of Asia and the Middle East.
And so I was surprised to discover recently that savoury oatmeal had become trendy. Bowls of oats now sported bacon, sprouts, goat cheese! Hipsters were falling for it, and chefs were eager to oblige. It was becoming the standard gluten-free option in fine-dining restaurants, and recipes were appearing in reputable food publications.
But sometimes a trend can become unhinged. Amid the excitement, oats were now forced to play the role of pasta or risotto, sauced with tomatoes and basil or wild mushrooms. They were standing in for polenta, showered with Parmesan. Sriracha and oats were casually commingling. I could understand the intent, but an oatmeal recipe that mimicked huevos rancheros struck me as a seriously flawed interpretation.
I didn’t object in principle to the concept of using oatmeal as a neutral canvas as a counterpoint to savoury elements though, so I decided to come up with a version of my own. I wilted a fistful of spinach leaves in olive oil with some hot pepper and garlic while the oats finished on the stove.
It needed something crunchy, so I made a savoury granola-like topping with oats, almonds, hemp seed and pumpkin seeds. (This granola, by the way, is easily prepared in 15 minutes, keeps for two weeks and has all sorts of other possible uses.)
Now the oatmeal cried out for a dab of creamy sour yoghurt. Bulgarian is my preference, but any good plain yoghurt would do.
Verdict? It was, admittedly, rather scrumptious. Currently, oatmeal with greens is trending in my home kitchen.
The New York Times