Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer...better late than never!

The New York/New Jersey area had its first 90 degree day of the summer today. Today, August 10. And I guess to re-stake her claim on summer, Mother Nature sent us 90% humidity, too. Lovely. But when you spend most of the day indoors, it doesn't really matter too much.

And now for something completely different. I've been on this "real" ricotta kick lately. Not the stuff in the plastic tubs from the supermarket. Thick, fresh, creamy curds from your local Italian specialty store. We've been using it mainly in pasta dishes with ripe tomatoes from our garden, but I recalled a recipe in The New York Times about a month ago by Melissa Clark where she served fresh ricotta with homemade granola. When I realized we were going to have leftover ricotta, I thought this would be a terrific little breakfast dish, and a delightful departure from my standard cereal and bananas. And other than the raw pistachios and the coconut chips called for in the recipe, I had all the ingredients. So after floating around the pool for awhile this evening to de-stress, I hopped out and tossed the granola together. I think this granola is very forgiving and you could probably substitute lots of different ingredients here. In lieu of the pistachios, I used walnuts. Standing in for the coconut chips, I offered unsweetened shredded coconut. I also added a handful of dried cherries. It's all good.

For some reason, this granola reminds me of Tuscany. I think it's the olive oil part. I can see myself sitting at a table at a rustic farmhouse, overlooking a field of giant sunflowers just starting to turn their happy little faces toward the sun. I can't wait to have this tomorrow morning for breakfast with some fresh raspberries and blueberries thrown in for good measure. It's not Italy, but it is summer and I have my own little patch of sunflowers ready to greet the day.

Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios

3 C old-fashioned rolled oats
1-1/2 C raw pistachios, hulled
1 C raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 C coconut chips
3/4 C pure maple syrup
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C packed light brown sugar
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground cardamom
3/4 C chopped dried apricots
Fresh ricotta, for serving (optional)
Fresh berries, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In large bowl, combine oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut chips, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, cardamom. Spread mixture on rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until golden brown and well toasted.

2. Transfer granola to large bowl and add apricots, tossing to combine. Serve with ricotta and fruit, if desired.

Yield: about 9 cups.

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