Kitchn Love Letters

I Love This Pantry-Friendly Granola Recipe … That Somehow Comes from a Fancy-Schmancy Restaurant

published Apr 22, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Masur

There isn’t much going on in my life right now, as I practice self-quarantine, so I spend my time hanging out by the oven, stirring olive oil, maple syrup, and brown sugar-coated rolled oats and nuts at 10-minute intervals until they’ve reached the desired level of toastiness. Then, I stage a photoshoot in my parents’ kitchen. Yes, quarantine has turned me into the kind of person who takes photos of my granola in Portrait Mode. Let me live.

My newly formed homemade granola habit was born out of a discussion that took place at my family’s breakfast table in New Jersey. We were joking about the sheer versatility of rolled oats — overnight oats, savory oats, flour, muffins, breads, cookies, milk — trying to one-up each other with unmentioned uses of the pantry staple. (After six weeks together, it’s clear that we might be running out of things to talk about.) Come lunchtime, I was inspired to turn our rolled oats into granola — and not just any granola.

Months ago, one of my roommates in the city had dinner at Eleven Madison Park, one of the fanciest restaurants in New York City. She generously let me taste test the contents of the Mason jar of homemade granola that she (and everyone who dines at EMP) got to take home at the end of the meal. I’d never tasted any granola like it. It was markedly saltier than any store-bought granola I’d ever tried, which perfectly balanced the clusters of oats bound together with a soul-warming sugary glaze. I knew chances of ever securing my own jar were slim to none, since I didn’t (and don’t) have $600 to spend on a tasting and an accompanying wine pairing, so I scoured the internet for a recipe to recreate it.

I followed the NYT Cooking recipe, which happens to be fairly quarantine pantry- and budget-friendly. Who would have thought, coming from a restaurant that serves dishes like Brook Trout Cured with Radish, Sesame, & Smoked Roe and Crab with Sorrel and Amaranth? Blessedly, this recipe only called for rolled oats, shelled pistachios, unsweetened coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, salt, light brown sugar, maple syrup, EVOO, and dried cherries. (I swapped in pecans for pistachios because that’s what we had.) Assembling the mixture took me less than 10 minutes. I then placed it in the oven in an even layer, and soon enough my parents’ house started to smell like a bed and breakfast.

Once finished and cooled, as is the ritual, I decant the granola into two empty tea tins and my family picks at it throughout the week, sprinkling it over yogurt (or just straight into our mouths) for however long it lasts. It’s a precious commodity, as we’ve started to run low on rolled oats and dried cherries, and we’re fresh out of coconut and maple syrup. So far, I’ve made this recipe every Sunday we’ve been in quarantine.

Credit: Lauren Masur

What I love most about this recipe is that it’s kind of a funny contradiction. Yes, it technically was born out of the kitchen of one of the fanciest restaurants in the world, but I had everything I needed to make a batch right at home in my very normal parents’ very normal pantry. And even if I didn’t have all the ingredients called for, the recipe leaves room for ample tweaks. Swap quick oats for rolled oats, dried cranberries for cherries, shredded coconut for coconut flakes, dark brown for light brown sugar, and any nut for the pistachios. The formula is foolproof — I promise.

Like me, you’ll learn quickly that the fanciest granola in the world isn’t all that fancy. The magic is simply that it’s a treat meant to be shared. And as long as this granola makes Sundays while sheltering-in-place feel even a little bit special, I’ll be making a big ol’ batch.

This story is part of our Staying Home series, in which Kitchn editors and contributors share the recipes, tools, and habits that are helping them through the pandemic. As we work to flatten the curve, we’re cooking more, shopping less frequently, and looking for the good and the bright as much as we can. In this very disorienting time, here’s what’s keeping us going.