Warm bowlfuls of savory steel cut oats with plenty of greens and topped with vegan mushroom “bacon” make a delicious weekend breakfast or brunch.
There’s no reason why this can’t be a satisfying dinner as well.
Steel-cut oats, with their hearty flavor and chewy, somewhat mushy texture, work well in savory bowls in addition to their use as a breakfast grain. In this preparation, they’re embellished with greens, scallions, and a little vegan cheese.
Can regular oatmeal be used instead? Sure, why not. It will be a little mushier, but still good. The trade-off is quicker cooking time.
What are steel-cut oats?
Sometimes called Scottish oatmeal, steel-cut oats are made by slicing whole oat groat into small pieces with sharp blades. Because they cook to a thick, sticky consistency, they’re more useful as a cooked cereal that as a grain for general cooking, in the same way as, say, rice or quinoa.
Hearty, gritty, and somewhat nutty, steel-cut oats have more texture when fully cooked than rolled oats or oatmeal.
Steel-cut oats are higher in fiber and protein than the other forms of oats. You can read a lot more about the benefits of steel cut oats at Bob’s Red Mill.
Cooking time for steel cut oats: I find that steel-cut oats labeled “quick” take longer to cook and require more water than their package directions might indicate.
Each brand (or steel-cut oats purchased in bulk) might have a slightly different grind, so follow the guidelines in the recipe, and add more water as needed. The basic guideline is that they take 20 to 30 minutes to cook, even if labeled “quick.”
Turning mushrooms into “bacon”
The crowning glory of this recipe is a batch of mushrooms that have been infused with a bacon-y flavor.
You can make almost anything taste like bacon — of the vegan variety. Tempeh, tofu, large coconut flakes, wavy-cut carrots … the possibilities are, if not endless, then certainly plentiful.
Mushrooms are my favorite food to “baconize.” Somehow the mouth feel and texture of these is so very appealing. Of the more common mushrooms, cremini (AKA baby bella) and portobello work well. Ordinary white mushrooms will do in a pinch
Shiitake, oyster, and chanterelle mushrooms are more of a splurge, but they work fantastically.
In addition to their use to top this bowl of warm steel-cut oats, use bacon-y mushrooms in sandwiches or wraps; they’re also fantastic for embellishing dishes like Kale Pesto Pasta with Mushroom “Bacon” and other pastas.
Steel Cut Oats
- 5 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked steel cut oats
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 1 cup vegan cheese shreds, as desired
- 2 to 3 big handfuls baby spinach or 6 to 8 kale leaves, stemmed and chopped
- 2 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons agave or maple syrup
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
- 8 ounces mushrooms (see options Notes), stemmed, cleaned and sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons barbecue seasoning (see Note)
- Bring water to a rapid simmer in a large saucepan. Lower the heat and stir in the oats, taking care not to let them lump. Cook at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is mostly absorbed. If not done to your liking, add 1/2 cup additional water, stir in, and allow to mostly absorb (as the texture will remain mushy). Repeat as needed.
- Once the oats are done to your liking, stir in the butter and vegan cheese; cook briefly until melted. Season with salt and pepper.
- If using spinach, simply stir it in, along with the scallions and continue to cook for a couple of minutes longer, until the spinach wilts. If using kale, cover the saucepan and set aside. Steam the kale in a separate skillet, using a little water, until tender and still bright green. Stir into the cooked oats mixture.
- You can start the mushroom bacon while the oats are cooking in step 1.
- For the mushroom bacon: Clean and stem the mushrooms. Slice thinly; if the caps are large, cut them in half before slicing.
- Combine the syrup, soy sauce, and oil in a medium skillet. Stir to combine.
- When the mixture start to bubble, add the mushrooms and stir to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until they begin to brown and get crisp here and there, about 8 minutes.
- Sprinkle in the seasoning, and stir quickly to distribute. Cook for another minute or two over low heat, then remove from the heat.
For the mushrooms: Choose from among cremini (AKA baby bella), portobello, shiitake, oyster, and chanterelle mushrooms, or use a combination. Ordinary white mushrooms will do in a pinch!
Barbecue seasoning blends are readily available in the spice section of well- stocked supermarkets. One of the most commonly found brands is McCormick.
This kind of seasoning comes in several varieties, including original Barbecue, Smoky Maple, Mesquite, and others. They’re all good; choose your favorite!
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