My brother John is a chef. A serious chef with a pair of highly-acclaimed restaurants. I am just a hungry girl in a home kitchen with no culinary training whatsoever. Unless you count watching hours and hours of The Food Network. Which you shouldn’t.
Along the winding path to his current gig, John once ran a tiny sandwich shop tucked under the “L" in Chicago’s Wicker Park. My kids loved this place. They loved the paninis – stuffed with lovely prosciutto and manchego cheese and fig jam, they loved the blackberry lemon Italian sodas, and they loved the pastries. Yes, yes, all very nice, but all I really wanted was the magical Milk and Honey Granola perched on the shelves.
Let me explain. I have had a life-long love affair with granola, beginning in high school with the Nature Valley version found in the grocery aisle, which I happily sprinkled on all that Yoplait I was eating at the time. My naive midwestern younger self had no idea how sad that “granola” really was. At some point in college, I started making the stuff myself, likely inspired by a Moosewood cookbook. An improvement, yes, but still an evolving art. My inner squirrel craved better.
And then I discovered Milk and Honey. This stuff was beyond fantastic… a perfect balance of earthy, nutty, sweet and salty. Salty – perhaps the key. I don’t ski (not particularly a fan of heights – so ski lifts terrify me, and I really don’t care for being cold) but the stuff made me feel like I should be blissfully sitting in an alpine ski chalet watching the snow gently fall while eating bowls full of it. And the flavors – chocolate banana, blueberry pecan… even a Mexican mix by Rick Bayless. Too many to choose from! To the bemusement of my family, I tried to stuff as many bags as I could into my suitcase every time we came back from Chicago. Alas, it’s not sold anywhere in DC.
So what is a girl to do? Of course, (if you are me) spend years trying to re-create the magic in her own kitchen. My husband loves granola almost as much as I do, so I make a big batch every other week or so… Quite honestly, it’s one of those things that seems never to be the same twice, and I tend to throw in whatever nuts are on hand, and I rarely measure anything. (With not unsurprisingly mixed results). It was time to commit to writing down a recipe.
In 2009, Melissa Clark of the New York Times published a recipe for Olive Oil Granola with Pistachios and Apricots. Olive oil? In Granola? Really? She waxed poetic about the genius of it, so I had to give it a try – and it was in fact insanely good. As I am not a fan of pistachios in granola, I have tweaked it a quite a bit to suit my own tastes – and actually wrote down the combination that worked.
I suspect I finally hit upon combination that comes close to the magic of Milk and Honey… If you’re dreaming of ski chalet, give it a try.
Olive Oil Granola with Dried Cherries
Makes about 9 cups
- 3 cups oats
- 1 ½ cups dry toasted, sliced almonds
- 1 ½ cup raw pepitas
- 1 cup pecan pieces
- 1 cup coconut
- ¼ cup flaxseed (optional)
- ¾ cup pure maple syrup
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup melted butter
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ cup dried cherries
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, pepitas, pecans, coconut, and flaxseed.
- In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, olive oil, melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
- Pour the liquid mixture over the oat and nut combination, making sure all of the nuts are evenly coated.
- Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.
- Transfer granola to a large bowl and add cherries, tossing to combine.