Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oat Cuisine

Avena Sativa is no ordinary gal. In fact some say this valuable grass with the luxuriantly swaying edible seed heads sprawled forth from a wilder bunch, vagabond weeds running rampant across the broad plains of Asia and Europe. This survivalist’s success is due some part to its ability to withstand sub par soil and climate conditions. Avena is able to thrive where others wither and fall and sympathetically, this characteristic is transferred to those who ingest this powerhouse plant. Oats are soothing nourishing fare. Its many forms are high in fiber which helps stabilize blood sugar and strengthen the heart. Medicinally, the long slender stems were discovered to calm nerves and strengthen the endocrine system. Oat straw is an herbal anti-depressant, an anti-inflammatory and high in calcium too. Befittingly the genus name Avena means ‘nourishing’ in Latin and people the world over observe hale vigorous behavior in those who eat and sow oats.

Yet substantially impressive as this food is, it fails to rile much enthusiasm from me. Oatmeal is a practical food choice that is gentle on the budget while providing a bounty of health benefits. But it can be challenging to focus on the pluses of oat grain when the grey lumpy mist of porridge past is weighing down on one’s memory. Gruel can be cruel. And while I have managed to dress up the tasteless hot cereal of yesterday with an arsenal of sugar and spice and everything nice, when all is said and done the cooked grain is still a mottled muddle of blandness. Somewhere in the center of the chew, in the sweet nuttiness of the fiber is a potential waiting to be captured and explored in another form, like in cookies.

Until now I never thought much about cookie hierarchy. I think of myself as an equal opportunity food lover, embracing all and rejecting none with exception of the sugary Otis Spunkmeyer discs sold at the 7-11 or the “homemade” cookies individually saran wrapped by the check out counter of a gas station. Along with these two types which are really subtle variations of the same thing, oatmeal cookies are at the bottom rung of my ladder. I cannot help feeling that oatmeal cookies are for sissies, for those that lurk behind the shadows of their mother’s knees. The choice of digestive biscuits, seem to be for those not quite weaned from the security of Pablum. They are the “next step up” and worse, they are often studded with the anti-chip, the shrunken sullen raisin.

Praise be to Ceres, the goddess of grains for putting me within reaching range of an oatmeal cookie capable of contradicting my previously unwarranted judgments. It is as if Aveda Sativa shape shifted to take on the form and person of Grandma A, a fine indefatigable woman with high shelf bosom, black sturdy shoes and a penchant for shouting, “Yoo-hoo!” at the top of her lungs. And did I mention this deliverer made a mean oatmeal cookie? While I never had the chance to directly meet her in person, I sense the outline of her being through her brawny-yet-delicate trademark cookies. These iconoclastic beauties put the haute in oat. Each grain is coated in an armor of brittle yet is laced with a heady fragrance of vanilla. The gossamer sweet crisp is populated with a scattering of bronzed roasted oats, cascading seeds in the wind. If Nature is a cathedral, these would be her communion wafers- a life giving celebration of earth’s best. So you can stick to mushy meal to guide you through your day, but I have a better suggestion and that is to tuck a few of Grandma A’s cookies down your hatch. It is an infinitely more delightful way to get the goodness of this great grain and break the fast too.

Grandma A’s Oatmeal Cookies: These cookies are deceptively simple. You may want to fuss with the recipe just as I wanted to do… But it is a sacred family recipe that is really best to leave alone.

Ingredients:
3 C rolled oats
1 C brown sugar
1 C all purpose flour
1 C melted butter
1/8 C boiling water
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
½ C chopped walnuts

Directions: Place the oats, brown sugar and flour in a bowl and gently mix together. Slowly pour the melted butter over this mixture and stir until combined. Pour the boiling water in a glass container and mix in the soda and stir until fizzing stops. Then add the baking powder, salt and vanilla and stir until dissolved. Add the water to the oat mixture and stir again. Add nuts, stir and refrigerate mixture until firm, at least a half hour. Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper and form loose balls about the size of a medium to large sized marble with the dough. These cookies spread a bit so do not pack them in too close. Bake for about 10 minutes until deep golden brown. Let cookies cool a bit before moving off the sheet so they do not tear. The cookies will become dangerously crisp as they cool.

15 comments:

blatta said...

"put the Haute in Oat"? Now that's, hmmm, quite witty. A quip that wonderous, that obvious, surely brought a smile to your carmelized-crumb mustachio.

A post of burgeoning good cheer, as are so many of the others. thanks

Anonymous said...

Oh...I LOVE oatmeal cookies. Now I have to try this. A cookie recipe without an egg. All I have to do is take away the nuts and substitute the butter for my food allergic child. I'll let you know what this new version tastes like.

gattina said...

Grandma A's recipe looks ordinary in the first glance, but look again the directions, they're totally different from most others. I'm very curious now, yes ma'am! I won't change anything :D
It might be strange from someone's eye... I always love (very) lumpy food, so you bet, oatmeal porridge is my gem, mixed with condensed milk or evaporate milk (more goovy right)... oh yes!

Anonymous said...

Oats are a food that I usually enjoy in most any form - but I always forget about them.. especially when I'm in a cookie baking mood. Which really is ridiculous as oatmeal cookies are one of my favorites (and yes, I love them packed with the "un-chips") hehe

Terrific post.. I must have been smiling while reading it as a co-worker wanted to know what was so funny. :D

Also.. thank you for the flower. I think it's the prettiest flower I've ever received. One day soon I'll be able to put into words what's been going on and I'll write then. Thank you for caring about me!! *hug*

m said...

It has been such a long while since I baked - my last creation was oatmeal cookies. Your receipe calls to my inner baker...remembering the cookie-a-day days (no caloric/carb concerns then) purchased at the Dragon. mmmm...

sher said...

Oatmeal cookies--gift from the gods! They put fancier cookies to shame.

I always hated oatmeal until I started eating the Scottish steel cut variety. Now I quite enjoy it!

Callipygia said...

blatta- I am relieved that you find it witty, sometimes the food puns are just plain bad. And You can see my mustachio...?

hipwritermama- let me know about the substitutions, hopefully you will not invoke the wrath of Grandma A.

gattina- Please try it, you are the goddess of baking and yes, it is v. different. OK, so I fibbed a bit, I do like cold lumpy oatmeal...

lis- ok so if you like oatmeal cookies they must be for the fun and sassy- not sissies!

m- carb and calorie concerns- who me?

Sher- ok now I really must retract my dis on oatmeal cookies. These are fancy cookies that happen to be oatmeal. And I do love the irish steel cut too- (I was making bold statements for dramatic effect.)

Anonymous said...

I became slave to oatmeal's powers a few years back when my wife started making an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie that is super-hella-yummy. I've been dying to make them, but we currently have no chips. And here I am looking around and (bump) huh? Que es eso?

I now have what little flour is in this recipe all over my black pants, that I overlooked changing out of. Thanks. I'll let you know what the decision was from my monkey after we eat 9 or 10 of these, since she is currently the designated "cookie taster" of the household.

Callipygia said...

d-man: I await monkey's verdict, especially if her mom makes super-hella-yummy oatmeal cookies. Hopefully these will come close.

Anonymous said...

And the verdict is: (CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH) Dare goob dahhdy! (CRUNCH CRUNCH)

Wicked good. Everybody here (plus three friends this morning, including the monkey's best friend) enjoyed these tasty treats. Summing them up, for me, it's like what a Mother's Brand Oatmeal cookie is trying to be, and then better. Or perhaps the archetypal oatmealy, oatmeal cookie, if you will. Wonderful, and thanks for the tearing tip; perfect example of info that gets left out in too many recipes where needed. Of course we just had to tear one or two, so that some rejects could be tried immediately. It's like an offering to our cooking gods, with our bellies being the only receiving vessel for the gifts or something.

We will get some ice cream and make some sandwiches tonight. (We better act fast, there is only a dozen left) If only we had some chocolate too for dipping them in, it could be the ultimate homemade It's It!

Thank you.......

Callipygia said...

d-man: I can breathe a sigh of relief now that the monkey has given the thumbs up- oh and of course your friends too. I've had the same thought about ice cream sandwiches and coating the bottoms with chocolate. They sort of remind me of florentines...

gattina said...

Callipygia, just made the first batch, and want to double-check, is there no more liquid (i.e. egg or milk) other than that melt butter and 1/8 cup of soda bubbling thing? My dough is lose...
.... BUT, not a complaint! The cookies are insanely crunchy! Taste is superb! They don't have that typical baking soda smell which normally exists in other cookies. The great taste is really great, beyond my words to describe...

Callipygia said...

gattina- There isn't any more liquid in the dough, which is why your refrigerate the mixture to let it stick better. Sorry my instructions may be misleading- implying the "dough" can easily be formed into balls. I really make loose clumps. I did notice the 2nd batch i made recently seemed drier...but it came out the same. I am glad you liked it.

Anonymous said...

Y'all are most fortunate to have been given a glimpse of Grandma A's oatmeal cookie recipe. Before the internet era it was a pretty tightly held family secret, locked snugly away in the tin recipe card index.
It is, in my admittedly biased opinion (I'm grandson A), the quintessential oatmeal cookie recipe. It's perfection attested to by the fact that even S_ doesn't stray from the recipe. I know of no other that she doesn't 'adjust'. She did threaten to put butterscotch chips in once but came to her senses.
So, enjoy. There's no more pleasant way to consume a stick of butter than by eating a few of these cookies. Adjust with caution though. You may be visited by the ghost of a 200 pound Swedish grandma bellowing 'Yooooo hoooooo' and ringing the doorbell incessantly.

Callipygia said...

lutefisk- you mean 2 sticks of butter!