Back when I was a notoriously picky eater, I didn't draw the line at vegetables. Despite always loving breakfast, oatmeal was one dish I could never get behind. I don't know if it was the mushy consistency or the bland flavor, but I always refused to eat it. Then one day, out of nowhere, along came along steel cut oatmeal--the oat that changed everything.
Surprisingly, I can't remember the first time I had steel cut oats. I just know that they entered my life in the relatively recent past and I haven't looked back since. I have such a profound love for their chewy texture, their retained form, their subtle nutty flavor. True, they take exponentially longer to cook than rolled oats, but if you have the time, the result is worth every minute.
I grew up in Los Angeles but moved to London just over a year ago to pursue an MA in Contemporary Art Theory and immerse myself in the city's unparalleled art organizations and offerings. I find London to be aesthetically stunning, culturally activating, and incredibly diverse--and right now, there is nowhere else I'd rather be. But it is damn near IMPOSSIBLE to find steel cut oats in this city. (Also: the avocados here are consistently underripe and tasteless, I really miss Trader Joe's, and most of all, I REALLY miss good, cheap, authentic Mexican food. But I'm sure you'll be hearing more about all that over time.) Apparently Brits enjoy 'porridge', as they like to call it, that has the consistency of complete mush. Their oats are typically milled to such a fine degree that a cooked bowl resembles a pile of beige slop. While I have graduated in my own eating to consume a hot cereal composed of whole rolled oats, the British mush heap is not a trend that I can, in good conscience, support.
It took a number of months, but I eventually found proper steel cut oats at a tiny, local natural whole foods market in Brixton, a predominantly Afro-Carribbean (but increasingly gentrified) neighborhood in south London. As you might imagine, my excitement could hardly be contained.
Without intending it, my slow-cooking steel cut oats have become a bit of a Saturday morning ritual. Standing over the pot, deciding what fruits, spices and mix-ins to add to enhance its deliciousness-factor on that given day, and then consuming a hearty bowl of the ever-fulfilling grain before embarking on the 20 minute walk to my local farmers' market initiates the perfect beginning to my weekend.
As the first autumn of my life as an amateur foodie rolled around a short couple of months ago, I quickly invested in all the typical warming spices that I didn't formerly have--ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom. I have since fallen madly for ground ginger. This sweet and slightly spicy flavor, coupled with the warmth of cardamom and natural sweetness of dates, makes for the perfect autumnal (or winter) bowl of steel cut oats for your slow saturday--or whatever day you have the time.
Ginger-Cardamom Steel Cut Oats with Dates
6 Tbsp. steel cut oats
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk (dairy, soy, nut, whatever you prefer)
3 dried dates
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1. Place whole dates in combined milk + water (in the pot is fine--fewer dishes!) and let soak for at least 10 minutes. (This will begin to soften the dates and infuse the liquid with the dates' flavor.)
2. Remove dates, deseed and dice to desired size.
3. Put 2/3 of the chopped dates back into the pot and reserve 1/3 to mix-in at the end.
4. Add the steel cut oats and bring the liquid to a boil.
5. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer.
6. Let oats simmer (leaving the pot uncovered) until most of the liquid is absorbed and the oats have softened, about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
7. When the oats are nearing completion, stir in the spices.
8. Top off with remaining dates.