If you're a vegetarian, gluten-sensitive, have food allergies or are simply seeking to follow a more health-focused diet, you're a part of a major movement that is reshaping the way we eat. Working for a cooking school, I have witnessed an increased interest in health-conscious cooking and, more interestingly, have noticed that most of my colleagues are affected by at least one food allergy or intolerance. But rather than "suffer" from food sensitivity, home cooks can take this opportunity to become better informed, to learn about what goes into our food and - at best - to make most of what we eat from scratch.
So that's how I arrived at my DIY granola. I had been innocently enjoying a morning pistachio/mulberry mix, when my allergist informed me that I have a mild allergy to certain legumes and nuts - including pistachios. That's when I realized that the pistachios were the most recognizable item in my granola, and I had no idea what else might be in there.
This granola gets its crunch from seeds, rather than nuts, and coconut chips. The signature (but absolutely optional) ingredient is a spice blend by Lior Lev Sercarz, the master spice blender at La Boîte á Epice. I met Lior at the Institute of Culinary Education, where he was teaching a class inspired by his new cookbook, The Art of Blending. When the class was over, there were a few half-full containers of his spice blends left over, which he encouraged me to take home.
Over the past few weeks, I have sprinkled Lior's spicy "Shabazi" blend over freekeh with eggs and roasted vegetables with his "Marrakesh", but spent more time nostalgically sniffing than actually cooking with his French gingerbread-inspired blend, "Reims". Mixing it into my granola added a savory complexity that goes far beyond cinnamon. In truth, it's an excellent example of how spice can empower health-focused cooks - a flavorful mission that I think Lior, himself, would fully back.
Gluten- and Nut-Free Granola
- 5 cups gluten-free oats*
- 5 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup coconut chips
- 3/4 cup golden raisins/craisins
- 2 egg whites
- 1-2 pinches of high quality sea salt
- 1/2 tsp "Reims" spice blend (in lieu of this, you can pass on spice, or add fall/winter baking spices, like cinnamon or "pumpkin pie spice")
- Mix together all dry ingredients.
- Add coconut oil, and mix.
- Beat egg whites, and add to mixture. Dry ingredients should be lightly coated by oil/egg whites, to the point of just beginning to stick together. You can add more oil/egg white if necessary.
- Shape granola into a "donut" on large greased baking pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes on 350 degrees, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking. (The "donut" ensures that you don't end up with an uncooked middle.)
*Oats are naturally gluten-free, but if you have gluten sensitivities, it is important that they are verified as being produced in a gluten-free environment.