Granula

Granola is a popular healthy breakfast cereal + snack that has a nuttier history than the pile of pecans and almonds in its recipe. 

Here's a tad bit of granola history: Briefly, granola's roots trace back to the mid 1800s beginning with an American physician and minister named Dr. Sylvester Graham (preaching temperance & nutrition) who created the Graham Cracker. Then Dr. Jackson in 1863 took Dr. Graham’s cracker one step further by grinding up this whole wheat biscuit into smaller pieces then baked it, which became known as “Granula”. Sound familiar? 

That was when Dr. Kellogg’s whole wheat breakfast food was renamed “Granola” because of a pending lawsuit initiated by Dr. Graham regarding his trademark rights to the Granula name. BTW, Dr. Kellogg’s Granola cereal never really caught on commercially. But, in 1898 granola was the inspiration for Charles Post’s Grape Nuts Cereal.  

Not all healthier cereal was Kellogg's inspired though. A similar cereal by the Swiss Dr. Bircher-Benner created the popular Swiss cereal Muesli in the 1900s, after hiking in the Swiss alps. Birchermüsli Complet is still a popular food served especially on hot summer evenings. It's a combo of whole grains with fruits, nuts, topped with some good Swiss cream and yogurt. 

Like Dr. Bircher-Benner’s Muesli, granola is delicious beyond the breakfast table. It is a great midday snack alone, and is also good topped on ice cream. Granola makes a taste baking topper on fresh summer fruits like peaches, just bake as you would a cobbler. Or, simply prepare a fresh berry parfait or Creamy Rice Pudding from George Hirsch Lifestyle TV Series as a more elegant cool summer dessert!

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Today, granola recipes are as varied as our imagination and is so easy to make your own. Start with rolled oats (not quick cooking oats).

Spices may include cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom; orange zest, and crystallized ginger.

Nuts or seeds; may include almonds, cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pecans.

Other additions may include coconut, cranberries, raisins, dates, peanut butter, pure maple syrup, honey or brown sugar. I almost hate to say it  - even chocolate chips. Just use very good quality chocolate.

George's Granola

About 12 servings 

chefgeorgehirsch.com | from George Hirsch Living it UP! cookbook

2 cups rice cereal

2 cups bran cereal

2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)

1 cup raisins or any combination dried fruit

1/2 cup pecans chopped

1/2 cup honey

Optional for flavor: 2 Tablespoons butter, melted 

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Vegetable spray

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. 

Spray vegetable spray on a nonstick roasting pan. 

Combine the rice cereal, bran, rolled oats, pecans, cinnamon, melted butter, and honey. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the oven. Granola should brown evenly and the browner it becomes, the crunchier and nuttier the granola will taste. Use caution not to burn. Mix in the raisins. Cool completely and store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

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Community Oven

Calling all bread trucks that look like this. Baguettes, a whole mini truck filled with thick crusted bread. This is the kind of bread that was birthed from a real brick oven. This kind of baking is an art that every village should experience.

A good Idea: In Europe, communal ovens date back to the 14th-15th century, mostly owned by churches, and charged a fee to bake your families loaf. Eventually taken over by the village, the community people were then in charge of the oven + no fee. Once a week the oven would be fired up and the villagers would gather, talk + bake. Looking forward to seeing a community bread oven in a town near me soon. Unique experience that deserves the flame to fired.


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Agretti

Agretti, meaning little sour one, is a salty-like heirloom herb with a succulent texture and a pleasantly acidic bite. I predict agretti soon to be a very popular green in the US. Originating in the mediterranean, it is now being harvested in California and available at Italian specialty markets. You may also see it identified at roscana aka in Italy.

It has a short harvest season in early spring. You'll find them packed in bunches that resemble the grass like look of spring chives. Agretti is best eaten when young and enjoyed fresh or cooked. 

Simply served chopped and tossed fresh in mixed salads for a slightly salty crunch. To cook, chop and sauté with olive oil, garlic and pepperchino as great by itself or mixed, better yet served with a little fresh pappardelle

Agretti's botanical name is Salsola soda, a relative to the tumbleweed, Salsola tragus. Ukrainian immigrants settling in the Great Plains are thought to have brought these plants to establish their fragile roots into U.S. soil.

A bit more:  Agretti should not to be confused with Russian Thistle - the plant commonly known as Tumbleweed. You wouldn’t want to eat it, the thorns on Tumbleweed would be a little rough on the digestion, even though in times of drought ranchers of yesteryear fed it to cattle during excessive droughts.