31 March 2014

A soft morning

Every morning comes with a different face. 

The front door of a stately home on the canal opens and out comes a man with a dog, a boxer. The last of stars have melted into the pale, bleached morning sky not long ago. March, a winter's disciple, has faded, but at dawn breath could still turn into thin smoke. The man is wearing an olive-green corduroy hat, shoulders stooped under the weight of the early hour, and a hat, black, wide-rimmed, it eclipses his broad forehead. He leaves the lights on; the naked windows hide little. There are yellow roses on the wooden table and a shawl draped over a chair in the kitchen. 

Together they cross the narrow road, the dog strains the leash. He stops by the bridge and let's the animal roam around on its own, sniff at the cobblestones, the bycicles. There is a pack of cigarettes in his coat's chest pocket, he takes one out. He lights it, leans over the side of the bridge, his foot perched on the railing -- and disappears in his thoughts. Across the bridge two American girls, white teeth, wide smiles, are taking pictures of one another, sleepy, still canals and tilted houses a charming, European backdrop. A soft morning. 

The cigarette glows in the man's hand. He looks at it, long, as if he hasn't seen it before, as if he isn't even sure what it is. Suddenly he throws it on the ground, an act he doesn't expect himself. "Time for breakfast, pal," he says looking at the dog and adjusts his awkward hat.

He crosses the bridge and goes to a cafe around the corner, the dog by his side. 

Back on the bridge, a tendril of cigarette smoke stretches up.

Speaking of breakfasts, I need to tell you about this.

Hazelnut Cacao Nib Granola

Adapted from Whole-Grain Mornings, by Megan Gordon

Chances aren't slim you may have already found your favorite granola recipe (if you are into granola, that is), but if you haven't, not yet, let me recommend you try this one. Chances are big you'll stop searching. I did. I'm thinking of the best way to describe it and nothing more fitting than 'elegant' comes to mind. That or superlatives. I suppose 'elegant' is better. 

There is something viscerally right about the composition of oats, coconut flakes and oil, hazelnuts, salt, and maple syrup, united together by gentle heat and, once cool, fortified by cacao nibs. Cacao nibs! The precursor of chocolate! Of chocolate! Thank you, Megan Gordon!

I tweaked the recipe a little to find a point where, to me, it's at its most. In the end, walnuts were replaced by sunflower seeds, cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla completely left out, cashew nuts brought in, the amount of coconut oil halved, and the oven temperature lowered by a few degrees. 

A pure way to start the morning.

300 g rolled oats
60 g raw sesame seeds
50 g raw sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
120 ml maple syrup
60 g coconut oil, melted
35 g unsweetened coconut flakes
60 g raw hazelnuts
50 g raw cashew nuts
30 g cacao nibs

Warm the oven up to 150 C (300 F). Line a large rimmed baking sheet with baking paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, sesame and sunflower seeds, and salt. Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and using your hands mix the wet and dry ingredients evenly together. Tip the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and stir in the coconut flakes, hazelnuts, and cashew nuts. Send back into the oven and bake until the granola is fragrant and golden brown, for another 15 minutes. Stir once halfway through to make sure it bakes evenly. Let cool completely. At this point the granola may not look as toasty as you'd like it to be, but it will firm up as it cools. Stir in the cacao nibs. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 weeks.