One complaint about vegetarian dishes is that they can lack texture. But plant-based foods can range in texture just as much as meat can, so it's simply a matter of paying attention to that quality when you're cooking.
I’ve got a DIY pantry item that can act as a texture-insurance policy: It's a savory granola, made the same way the sweet kind is, but with herbs, salt and pepper instead of sugar, and with mustard instead of, say, dried fruit. I've seen references to such a thing in a few other cookbooks and on restaurant menus recently, but I went with a recipe from David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl's new "Green Kitchen at Home" (Hardie Grant Books, 2017).
Sprinkle it on a salad, on a roasted sweet potato or into soups, grain bowls, fried rice, braised tofu or just about anything that could use a little extra crunch. (Which is just about anything, period.)
For those of you who like your morning yogurt, there's nothing to stop you from stirring in this instead of a super-sweetened granola. And in case you run out of ideas for how to use it – you won't – you can eat it as a snack. Consider yourself warned.
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Adapted from “Green Kitchen at Home,” by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl (Hardie Grant Books, 2017). Feel free to substitute other herbs, nuts and grains to your heart's content.
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried, finely chopped
1 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
1 cup rye flakes (a.k.a. rolled rye; see note)
1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats (see note)
1/2 cup raw pecan halves
1/2 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon runny honey or pure maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
Combine the rosemary, thyme, oats, rye flakes, buckwheat groats, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, orange zest, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
Whisk together the oil, mustard and honey or maple syrup in a liquid measuring cup. Pour over the dry ingredients. Mix well, using your hands or a spatula. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if desired.
Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning, until crunchy and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on the baking sheet. Store at room temperature in a large sealable glass jar for up to 1 month.
Note: Buckwheat groats (the triangular seeds of the plant) and rye flakes, by companies such as Bob's Red Mill, are available in some natural food stores and online.
Per 1/4-cup serving: 150 calories, 4 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 65 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar
Yield: 20 servings (5 cups).