Peaches and Cream Oatmeal   Leave a comment

This weekend it has been pleasantly cool again, allowing me to enjoy an occasional but treasured treat: peaches and cream oatmeal. Since I only eat seasonally, this dish requires a confluence of factors: a weekend so that I have the time to cook steel cut oats, cool weather so I won’t overheat the house, and fresh peaches in the market. It is an example of how eating seasonally does not just refer to what produce one eats, but what dishes as well. I know lots of people adjust somewhat to the seasons, for example by eating more salads in the summer than in the winter, or cooking outside (read: barbecue). With the use of air conditioning keep the house cool no matter what the other conditions are, such planning and seasonal adjustments are probably less common now than decades ago.

For me, adjusting like this also keeps the things I love special. I love oatmeal and other hot cereals, but if I ate them all the time I think I would get tired of them. Only eating them when the weather is cool introduces scarcity, which makes them more valuable experience (funny how some economics concepts translate to real life: scarce items have higher value than common items). In the late winter/early spring I start looking forward to more scrambled eggs/omelets/ breakfast burritos, which take the place of oatmeal since they require less cooking time; and then in the fall I get excited about returning to hot cereal. When doing meal planning, think about what’s fresh, how much cooking you want to do, what effect the cooking will have on the house (heating a cold house, overheating a hot house), and what your body craves (cooling salads or warm and filling casseroles)

I also encourage everyone to make their own hot cereal mixes and not be limited to what marketers create for us in the store. As kids we used to enjoy the occasional treat of M&Ms in our oatmeal. Now this past winter my flavor du année was dark chocolate/white chocolate. I swirled dark chocolate chunks or cocoa powder with sweetened white chocolate chunks. The white chocolate provided the sweetening and the richness, while the dark chocolate offered a hint of flavor. I also love chopped walnuts, sometimes with maple syrup for sweetening. To do nuts in your oatmeal, put them in when you first start warming the milk or water so that the nut oils can diffuse into the entire pot. Apple cinnamon is another occasional treat. When putting fresh fruit in hot cereal, chop the fruit when you start the cereal on the stove and put one third to one half of the chopped fruit in the pot near the start of the cooking so that the flavor and sugars disperse throughout. That fruit will also often partially disintegrate and add to the texture. Right before it is done cooking you add the rest of the fruit so that you get the fresh flavor and texture as well. When adding cinnamon to hot cereal there are two ways to do it: stick and powder. If you add a cinnamon stick when you first start warming the milk or water there will be an almost perfumy cinnamon flavor throughout the cereal, and if you add powdered cinnamon during or at the end there will be a more forceful cinnamon flavor.

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Posted June 20, 2010 by mayakey in food

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