When I first moved to San Francisco, I lived in a very fun, tasty neighborhood about a block away from the corner of Haight and Ashbury nearby one of the San Francisco Boulangerie bakeries. I would always order some sort of croissant or toasted baguette to accompany my cappuccino and could not fathom what possessed the weirdos who ordered the granola, fruit, and yogurt when there were such divine breakfast pastries.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was having breakfast there with my husband and son who had only been eating solids for a few months. Since yogurt was one of his favorite foods (and still is at almost five years old) I added one of the yogurt and granola bowls to our order. I only felt a tad bit guilty about how many bites I stole from him. It would have hurt his poor little stomach to have finished it alone, right?
My grandparents always seemed to have a stash of granola around when I was growing up, but they usually ate it with milk and blueberries, not yogurt. When I was twenty-one, I traveled through Greece with my (then boyfriend) husband and had one of the Cyclades islands mainstays–strained yogurt with honeydew melon, apricots, walnuts, and honey. Over the years I have tinkered with various favorite granolas, but in the last year or so I have found the most synergistic of marriages in an olive oil granola with fresh fruit (melon and some stonefruit are ideal) and sheep’s milk yogurt.
Every few weeks I make a batch of my favorite granola. One of the latest cues for whipping up this easy-peasy, delicious granola tends to be when Rebecca from Garden Variety Cheese is selling her other-earthly fresh sheep milk yogurt. For those of you who think yogurt and granola is for health nuts, uh, cover your eyes for the next part. Sheep’s milk yogurt has well over twice as much fat as cow’s milk and results in a creamy, sinfully tasty yogurt that resembles strained Greek yogurt. It also has a recognizably sheep-milk flavor and tang–much like a sheep’s milk cheese–that blends incredibly with the sweet granola and fruit.
As with any granola, this one is infinitely flexible for omissions and additions. I change it almost every time. Sometimes I do not feel like the cardamom, but rather a little star anise or a leftover vanilla bean pod. Other times, I add hazelnuts and almonds instead of the nuts and seeds below. The only thing I advise you not to alter too much is the proportion of the liquids. You need them to make things properly adhere. Finally, when the granola finally comes out of the oven and you are dying to taste it, RESIST! Do not stir it or touch it whatsoever.
What you will regret in having to soak your pans to wash them you will pat yourself on the back for in having perfect crunchy clumps of granola, not just tiny little crumbly pieces because you impatiently stirred the hot granola upon removing it from the oven.
Sheep’s Milk Yogurt with Pistachio-Almond Olive Oil Granola
(adapted from this recipe)
3 cups multigrain oats (such as oats, barley, rye, quinoa, etc.)
3/4-1 cup raw pistachios
3/4-1 cup raw slivered almonds
1/2-3/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)
1 cup coconut chips (natural food stores, Whole Foods, etc. sell these)
3/4 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground star anise (optional)
discarded empty vanilla bean pod (if you have one lying around)
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Combine everything in a large bowl and mix well. If using the vanilla pod, let everything sit for five minutes, stir again, and then cook. Spread everything out onto a rimmed cookie sheet and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring every 14 minutes or so until it is a golden color and fragrant like cookies. Do not stir after you take the granola out of the oven. Wait until it has completely cooled before breaking the granola out of the pan.