It’s February and oatmeal season it still going strong! Few things are more commonplace at breakfast than oatmeal. Even living in the sweltering Middle East, it remains a comfort. I recently revitalized by trusted oatmeal breakfast with papaya and passion fruit. This was really stepping out on a limb for me, since I’ve never actually liked papaya and I wasn’t certain if I’d ever really tasted passion fruit. But it’s good to occasionally paint with new colors. The papaya added a nice pop of tropical color and a succulent texture. The passion fruit gave it a tart, sweet and crunchy element. It’s like my oatmeal got one of those Today Show makeovers and now it’s only barely recognizable. Oatmeal, is that you?
I’ve officially been vegan for about six months. Such a drastic change in my diet required completely rethinking all my meals and restocking my pantry. I know from my experience that the rockiest part of the transition is figuring out what to eat at each meal when you first make the switch.
More than any other meal during that transition, I found that I really needed to have my act together for breakfast. Because most people are barely awake and pressed for time, breakfast needs to be the most regimented, most foolproof and most formulaic meal of the day. Luckily, there’s always oatmeal. What could be more regimented, foolproof and formulaic than oatmeal (vegan diet or no vegan diet)? Once in a while I meet a person who hates oatmeal and I just couldn’t imagine. It has been such a huge part of my culinary life. Growing up, I ate oatmeal, the Quaker Oats variety pack kind, every morning at my grandmother’s house, while watching Lassie (How on earth did I watch that show?). I preferred the apple cinnamon pack and was always disappointed when the box was down to the maple brown sugar flavor. My other grandmother also made oatmeal for me during a stretch. She cooked the old-fashioned oats, loaded with salted butter. I have to say I preferred her method to the variety pack.
It wasn’t until I became vegan that I realized that oatmeal is also a great source of protein. I go with steel-cut oats for breakfast. They’re less processed and have a lower glycemic index than rolled oats, which means it does not give you the spike in blood sugar level associated with more processed carbohydrates. Steel-cut oats do take significantly longer than quick oats to cook, however. I usually cook a big batch at the beginning of the week and I get about six small serving out of that. I still like to keep rolled oats on hand for a quick, emergency breakfast option. They also make a useful baking ingredient for crisps, cookies etc.
There’s no limit to how you can dress up oatmeal. I like to add a heaping spoonful of tahini to my bowl for a savory kick and additional protein. I really like the way tahini balances the fruit and sweetener, giving the oatmeal a more complex flavor. I throw in spices as I am inspired, a drizzle of olive oil and always, a dash of salt. Crunch is also an important element. I usually add chopped almonds or pumpkin seeds. It’s pretty simple, but some oatmeal bowls are better than others. Think of this recipe as inspiration and tweak to your personal preferences.
Papaya Passion Fruit Oatmeal Bowl
Makes 4-6 servings
1 cup of steel-cut oats
1 ½ cup of water
1 ½ cup of coconut milk
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)
¼ cup honey, brown sugar or maple syrup (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1 passion fruit (halved and scooped on top of oatmeal)
½ cup papaya, sliced or cubed
2 tbsp. tahini (or to taste)
2 tbsp. chopped almond (or to taste)
1. Bring the coconut milk and water to a boil on high heat.
2. Add in steel-cut oats and salt. Stir once and reduce heat to a low simmer, cover. Cook for 20 minutes.
3. Add cinnamon and cardamom, honey, brown sugar or maple syrup. Also add additional coconut milk if the oatmeal is too thick for your liking.
4. Uncover and cook on low for an additional 5 minutes.
5. Spoon serving into bowl and top with papaya, passion fruit, chopped almonds and tahini (or any desired toppings).