We live in a cereal world... and I am not a cereal person. It started when I was a kid, when I would request eggs or toast with cheese instead of bowls of grains with milk. Overall, I am just not particularly charmed by starting my day with sweet or starchy breakfasts. The exception to this has always been granola. Probably because my Mom's granola is packed with nuts, seeds and barely any sweetness. These days I make my own with blended fruits, interesting fats including brown butter or coconut oil and syrups such as maple, honey or molasses with hunks and chunks of coconut, rice puffs, seeds, nuts, and more.
One day I found myself daydreaming of a savory, nothing-cloyingly-sweet about it granola. Not long after Lilly's Table was buzzing with a brand new granola that we can't seem to get enough of around here. Flavorful olive oil is a key element as is a heavy hand with freshly ground black pepper. A microplane will help you grate the nutty Parmesan and lemon zest that tie them altogether and just a hint of honey will help you remember that this in fact is still granola. My other secret ingredient is to fold in puffed brown rice as they become these chewy treats of flavor throughout. Any puffed grain such as millet or kamut can work instead, too.
Now you ask, do you just pour milk over it? Well, I don't because it often ends up dumped into my hand and not a bowl, but when I feel the need to be more civilized about my savory granola consumption I sprinkle it on eggs, scrambled with cheese & herbs or with runny yolks on top of a saute of veggies. For lunch, it is sprinkled on salads to give add a crunchy, cheesy element. For dinners, it plays well intertwined with pastas or roasted vegetables. But, possibly my favorite way is sprinkled on Black Pepper Yogurt with fresh Peaches (or other stone fruit) for a sweet, yet savory dessert style end to my day.
Black Pepper Parmesan Granola
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup puffed brown rice, millet, kamut or more rolled oats, instead
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons black pepper, or more to taste
1 teaspoon salt
Toss the oats and puffed brown rice together on a baking sheet wtih sides or a large casserole dish.
In a saucepan, warm up the olive oil and honey, just until smooth and incorporated. Zest the lemon and toss the zest with the grated parmesan. Juice the lemon and whisk into the olive oil and honey.
Pour the liquid all over the oats and rice. Fold and stir until they are thoroughly coated and sticky. Sprinkle on the parmesan, lemon zest, salt and black pepper. Toss to coat.
Place in an oven set to 325. Stir every 15-20 minutes until dried out and just starting to turn golden.
If you like it crispier, turn off the oven and leave the pan in there until it cools down. Otherwise, pull it out immediately, cool and enjoy.
The granola keeps at room temperature for a week or so. in the fridge for several weeks.
Lilly Steirer lives in the Menlo Park neighborhood in Tucson and runs Lilly's Table Online Meal Planning Service. She is also one of the founding crew of Food Swap Tucson. Follow Lilly's Table on facebook, twitter, sign up for her weekly newsletters or subscribe to Lilly's Table for tons of seasonal recipes and meal plans.