Give your oat­meal the glam treat­ment

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360FOOD - By Ellie Krieger Spe­cial to the Washington Post Spe­cial to the Washington Post

This sump­tu­ous break­fast bowl is what hap­pens when frumpy reg­u­lar oat­meal gets a mod­ern, stylish makeover.

It doesn’t take much ef­fort, and the be­fore-and-af­ter re­sults are as­tound­ing.

First, the foun­da­tion: Us­ing chewy, nutty steel­cut oats makes the most of the ce­real’s nat­u­ral fla­vor as­sets; cook­ing them with red quinoa and stir­ring in a pop of chia seeds adds com­pelling tex­ture, color and nu­tri­tion; and adding milk to the mix makes it lux­u­ri­ously creamy.

Then the culi­nary bling: A top­ping of warm, sweet, cin­na­mon-scented caramelized ba­nanas and an op­tional crunch of toasted wal­nuts im­me­di­ately lure you to the ta­ble. The ba­nanas look and feel ul­tra-in­dul­gent, but it takes only a dab of but­ter, a small amount of brown su­gar and three min­utes in a skil­let to make them so.

This glammed-up oat­meal is ideal for week­ends when you have a lit­tle more time and want some­thing spe­cial, but it is doable on week­days, too, and could be just what you need to coax you out of bed in the morn­ing.

Greet­ings from Paris, where I’m pon­der­ing time, friend­ship, early-evening drinks and cheese bread.

I’m in Paris a whole lot less than I’m in New York, yet I see my French friends a whole lot more. It’s not that I pre­fer the French set. It’s not even that I’m more gad­about here. Nope, I think it’s be­cause there are so many more op­por­tu­ni­ties to see friends in Paris, and they’re all built into the rhythm of the day.

In ad­di­tion to break­fast, lunch and din­ner, there are other let’s-get-to­gether mo­ments, in­clud­ing “L’heure de l’apéro” — the cock­tail hour.

Apéro re­ally is just about an hour, but it needn’t be cock­tails that are served. Most of­ten, the bev­er­age is wine and the ac­com­pa­ni­ment is some­thing nib­bly: a tasty tide-you-over tid­bit that will hush tummy rum­bles yet leave room for a meal (which usu­ally doesn’t be­gin un­til 8 or later).

The go-along might be some­thing as plain as salted nuts, a few slices of dried sausage or cherry toma­toes, or it might be a kind of cheese bread, a mem­ber of the “cake salé,” or sa­vory cake, fam­ily. Yes, the French say “cake”; they use the word for al­most any­thing baked in a loaf pan.

I had my first cheese bread about a decade ago in Reims, the cham­pagne cap­i­tal of France, and I’ve been a faith­ful fan ever since. Es­sen­tially a quick bread, mean­ing that it gets its rise from bak­ing pow­der, not yeast, the cheese bread is hardly a light lit­tle noth­ing. Rather, it’s a sub­stan­tial loaf that, when cut into slen­der fin­gers or snack­able cubes, is just the right thing with a glass of white wine or, yes, cham­pagne.

Al­though the bread comes in as many va­ri­eties as there are cheeses, the one I make most of­ten uses those no­tat-all French clas­sics, ched­dar and Gouda, as well as ba­con, wal­nuts, very non­tra­di­tional ap­ple and, for a sur­prise, cumin. I like to pack as much tex­ture into the bread as I can, so I make the bat­ter with grated ched­dar and small chunks of Gouda; the ched­dar melts into the bread com­pletely, and the Gouda half-melts and half keeps its form. As for the cumin, it’s a new ad­di­tion chez me, one I adopted af­ter hav­ing Gouda that was made with cumin seed.

The bread is the kind of thing a re­source­ful French cook would make with what­ever cheese was left over at the end of the week. This means that al­though you should re­spect the pro­por­tions of the recipe, you can go your own way with the cheese. Pick one you can grate for the bat­ter, then choose what­ever you’d like for the chunky add-in.

When you’re com­bin­ing the wet and dry in­gre­di­ents, take it easy. With quick breads, un­der­mix­ing beats over­mix­ing.

When you slide the bread into the oven, pop some white wine into the re­frig­er­a­tor. By the time the bread bakes and cools, it’ll be “l’heure de l’apéro” and you’ll be on top of it. Cheers!

DEB LIND­SEY FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

A cheesy quick bread is a per­fect snack be­fore din­ner.

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