The Involuntary Savory Breakfast

I spoke at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston last night, and – because I finished late – went out to a nondescript restaurant that had a kitchen that, in theory at least, stayed open until 10. I could complain nonstop about this entire experience but that’s not the point; I’m going to complain about something else. I will say that the best part of the meal were some semi-fried Brussels sprouts, so I took the leftovers back to my hotel, where there’s a fridge.

I woke up early, as I do, and I ordered coffee and, because I was in the mood, “homemade granola.” Yes, I’m a sucker too: I had visions of my kind of granola, not especially sweet, nutty, maybe a little burnt, loads of nuts, oats, maybe some dried fruit, coconut, not much else. What I got was this:


Clumps of brown sugar – I swear, the stuff tasted like it was 60 percent sugar – binding oats and fragments of nuts. Homemade by whom? Our friends at Quaker no doubt.

Brussels sprouts to the rescue. 


And they were still pretty good. But they were planned for lunch (there was some leftover kale), so now I need a lunch alternative. It will not be room service, I assure you.

Have you made granola? Try this: (recipe from How to Cook Everything.)

6 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds: a combination of sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, etc.
1 cup shredded coconut (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
Dash salt
1/2 to 1 cup honey or maple syrup, or to taste
1 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, combine the oats, nuts and seeds, the coconut if you’re using it, cinnamon, salt, and sweetener. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or a little longer, stirring occasionally. The mixture should brown evenly; the browner it gets without burning, the crunchier the granola will be.

2. Remove the pan from the oven and add the raisins. Cool on a rack, stirring once in a while until the granola reaches room temperature. Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator; it will keep indefinitely.

Peanut Butter Granola. Any nut butter or tahini will work nicely here; toss in some chocolate chips if you like very sweet granola: Add 1/2cup peanut butter and mix with the 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup until blended. Proceed with the recipe; stir the granola every few minutes while it’s baking to prevent the peanut butter from burning.

Spiced Granola. Add another teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon each ground anise and cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon each freshly grated nutmeg and ground cloves, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Ginger-Molasses Granola. Crumbled gingersnaps are a great addition to this: Substitute molasses for half of the sweetener and add a 1- to 2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated into the sweetener. Add 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger along with the raisins.


Posted in American


  1. Samantha said...

    Well, that is disappointing! (Although, that granola shot is hilarious)…Perhaps a slice of pizza at Veggie Planet in Harvard Square? I’m a sucker for their Mexican Bean (black bean puree and pepper jack cheese topped with our homemade salsa and sprinkled with fried garlic) or Henry’s Lunch with roasted squash and caramelized onions…

  2. opwann said...

    I dig semi-fried brussel sprouts… especially if they’re really small ones, and the lubricant is melted butter 😀

  3. Victoria Gilbert said...

    I started making my own granola 4-5 years ago, and I am forever spoiled. Lots of nuts, coconut, dried cherries….NOT TOO SWEET. I really can’t stand too sweet breakfasts. You are a constant inspiration. Thanks for all you do.

  4. Marina Freeman said...

    Those Brussel sprouts would not have lasted until morning in MY fridge 🙂 The hotel granola looks so gross–yuk. I agree: Thanks for all you do.

  5. jomiku said...

    Heard you at the MFA. Agree with you. Have long been saying the best way to eat is to move meat from the center of the plate so it becomes part of the dish, not the substance. That is, after all, how so many great cuisines developed: stretch scarce protein with oil or cheese or fish sauce plus vegetables. You only briefly touched on a big issue. I was starving while shopping at Costco and succumbed to the lure of the "chicken bake" just removed from the oven. It had no taste. The bread had a rubbery, non-bread feel. The insides were some sort of emulsified supposed cheese sauce with tasteless, very white pieces of chicken. The chicken was so white I thought it might have been treated for color. Problem: people like this crap. They actually think this is good. Over the last few years, the amount of prepared food at Costco has mushroomed. It is almost easy to chew pablum. How can we change eating if people no longer know what food tastes like? It’s not like we have lost an "American cuisine" like Shandong or Milanese or South Indian. It seems like we’re developing a cuisine just as Americans are literally losing the ability to taste food. It isn’t, for example, that bacon makes everything better but that bacon added to crap that has no taste at least tastes like something. Now we have tasteless renditions at every restaurant of mac & cheese because apparently tasteless food that barely requires chewing reminds us of "home" or perhaps of being babies.Thanks for the talk. Enjoy the new gig. You should collect some of the weirder comments and put them in a book. You’ll never match Paul Krugman as a lightning rod for the weird but you can try.

  6. Graciela Guardado said...

    That granola looks like a crumbled muffin! Ay. And aren’t scorched brussels sprouts simply the best? I don’t get how people can hate brussels sprouts. They’re like creamy morsels of yum.

  7. Jill Jones said...

    There are no words for how much I LOVE your granola recipe …. we actually use the one from Food Matters. It is so good … my little kids beg to have it, sometime with plain yoghurt, sometimes plain for a snack. I would buy your cookbook just for that recipe … why are you giving it away for free?? LOL

  8. Alex Beecher said...

    Brussels sprouts form the bulk of my favorite savory breakfast. It’s quite simple, really. Put a pat of butter down, the plop down more sprouts than you can imagine eating at once, and slosh them around until mushy and wilted. Then, crack two eggs into the pan, and scramble lightly. Add a dash of pepper, and a side of whole wheat toast. You will have to talk your stomach in to accepting lunch later.

  9. ConnectionZen said...

    Name and shame that hotel!

  10. aaronkagan said...

    I just don’t understand why people insist on eating dessert in the morning instead of food. Oh, right, because sugar is addictive.

  11. sas913 said...

    I saw the picture, and thought it looked like a bowl of keema–indian style ground beef. Not very appetizing for a breakfast!

  12. Jil Picariello said...

    One question: Is the coconut sweetened or un-?

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