Saturday, October 22, 2011

Oat Groats, a hot cereal

Brown Rice (left) v. Oat Groats (right)
As the days start to change from summery to autumn-y (and they should, since we're officially in autumn as of September 23rd), I want hot breakfast more often. My new love right now -- oat groats aka oat berries. They look a little like brown rice (see the picture, they're the ones on the right without any little green flecks) and have that kind of chewy texture that brown rice has (and take about the same amount of time to cook) but with that lovely, lovely oat flavor.

A groat, if you're wondering, is the parent grain--the grain that comes from the plant and hasn't seen much processing (in this case, unlike the cut or rolled oat, or oat bran or flour). Due to this lack of processing, as far as I could research, these contain none of the gluten that causes people with Celiac's disease or strong gluten intolerance any problems. Oats, I've learned, do contain a type of gluten--but it's not the same as the gluten in wheat, barley, and rye, and only contain a very small amount of it.

I'm actually a little surprised about how little I was able to learn about oat groats online. The sources that talked about oat groats, with a few exceptions (mostly dedicated to gluten-free lifestyles) focused more on the by-products of oat groats we're all more familiar with. But I suppose this shouldn't surprise me too much. I was just talking to a friend about oat groats and his response was "I'll have to look for those next time I go to my co-op." He doesn't like oatmeal much, though he didn't specify why (I suspect it's because that's the primary thing he's eaten for breakfast for a couple of years now because it's cheap and filling). I tried to sell him the idea of groats based on their texture--much superior, I think.

Look at those little groat beauts!
To be fair though, I found out about oat groats when I moved to my new town. They were in bulk bins everywhere (note: if you're celiac, and you're new to it, the advice is don't buy from bulk bins. Instead, you can order your groats from an online retailer or potentially find it with the other grains in your local grocery. I got a small amount, since to my knowledge at that point, the reason that oats were not good for people with gluten sensitivities was because of the processing, not because of the oat itself. This is how come you can find gluten-free rolled oats on the shelves of some markets.

Groats take a lot longer to cook than regular oats and I recommend the pre-soak method to reduce cooking time. I usually add my oats (1 part groats to 3 parts water) to water and bring to a boil and then turn off and go for a run. This reduces my cooking time to 20-25 minutes. I've also seen recommendations for soaking groats overnight. Do what makes sense for you.

I've also read that you can cook extra oat groats and store them in the refrigerator for the next day (apparently they're easy to reheat) but I don't see much point in this. If I'm that rushed, I'm probably grabbing something and walking out the door. Otherwise, I'm going to be able to at least start my groats (especially if I've soaked them overnight) while I'm getting dressed, walking my dog, etc. and then pour them into a reusable container to take with me. Some people cook their groats with salt. I opt out, but if you want to add salt, remember just a sprinkling should be fine.

But so far, I've been able to savor my groats. I like them with pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and sometimes a little bit of local blackberry honey. Sometimes I add milk (lately this has alternated between a dairy option, coconut, and almond). Sometimes I throw on some fresh fruit. Usually I add cinnamon. But they're also really pretty good with nutritional yeast, pepitas (raw, hulled), and a little black pepper if you're looking for something more savory.

I imagine these groats would also make a lovely stand-in for rice in a pilaf, especially a pilaf with a couple of sweeter aspects, like raisins or apricots.

Oat Groats for One

1/4 cup oat groats
3/4 cup water

Bring the water and groats to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat, cover, and let rest for at least 30-45 minutes. After the groats have soaked (go do something like run, shower, read, whatever), uncover and turn the heat back on. Bring the groats to a rapid boil once again and then reduce the heat to low and simmer another 20-25 minutes. Serve how you would typical rolled or steel cut oats.
Cooked Groats, no toppings

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