As the winter months go by and the grey days accumulate, you start heading towards a funk. It's cold, and your breakfast routine is getting stale: You throw some oats in a pot with water... let them cook too long 'cause you got distracted on Instagram accounts of manicured lifestyles in warmer weather. A handful of lazy old raisins on top, and there you have it, you've hit a culinary low.
This recipe takes all the plainness out of oatmeal. The highlight: a poached pear... très sophistiqué. Fear not! Poached pears, much like soufflés, sound fancy but are actually quite simple to make. It does take a little extra time to prep all the components, but it's worth it; all these flavors love each other... pears, dates, walnuts, vanilla, anise. The buckwheat groats add contrast and texture.
If you're dairy-free or have settled with making oatmeal using plain ol' water, why not make the base of the oatmeal richer and creamier for a change? Nut milks. Easy. Especially in this case where there's no need to strain the milk after blending it, as it'll just incorporate into the oats anyhow. I feel like walnuts and pears are a timeless combination, so I thought incorporating the walnuts into the oats as a milk would be a less literal way to pair the classic flavors. That said, I'm a sucker for topping things with nuts for texture, protein and taste, so I added walnuts as a garnish anyway. What can I say, I'm a hedonist.
Poaching Pears: choose pears that are ripe, but still quite firm to the tough; if overripe, they'll turn out too soft or mealy even. If they're too underripe however, you may lose out on flavor. Bosc pears - what I used here - hold their shape well when baked or poached, with a sweet, tart flavor. Anjou or Bartlett pears are lovely too. If you only have apples on the counter, try those instead!
INGREDIENTS // SERVES 2
1 cup Walnut Halves
2 cups Water
1 Tbsp Honey, Maple or Date Syrup
1 tsp pure Vanilla Extract
pinch of Salt
2 barely ripe and firm pears (bosc, bartlett or anjou work fine)
1 bottle (705 ml) wine, most wines will do fine for this, white, red, rose... as the poaching liquid is doctored with vanilla bean, sugar and star anise anyway
1 cup Water
1 cup Coconut, Date or Maple sugar
1 fresh Vanilla Bean, split lengthwise
2 star Anise, whole
2 tsp fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
1 cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
Walnut Milk (above)
pinch of Salt
To Serve, (optional):
fresh Medjool Dates (sliced into thin strips lengthwise, seed removed)
raw or sprouted & dehydrated Buckwheat Groats
Honey, Maple or Date Syrup. OR reduce 1/2 cup of poached pear liquid over medium-high heat until it reaches the consistency of syrup!
Walnut halves or pieces
PREPARATION // 45 MINUTES
In a high-speed blender (once again, I love my vitamix!) blend the walnut halves, water, sweetener of choice, vanilla extract and salt until perfectly smooth. Set aside.
In large saucepan, large enough to hold 4 pear halves, with a couple inches to spare at the top, combine the wine, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, and stir until the mixture dissolves.
Remove from heat, scrape the vanilla bean to gather vanilla seeds, and add both the pod and seeds in the saucepan, along with the lemon juice.
Peel the pears, leaving the stem intact. Slice in half, and remove the core (a teaspoon-size measuring spoon works great). Add pear halves to the saucepan. It's best they are submerged just beneath the surface. f you feel they are floating too much, you can place a small lightweight (heatproof) dish on them to push them down a bit.
Return saucepan to medium-low heat, and slowly bring the syrup to a light simmer. They should be ready in around 10-15 minutes (depending on size, variety and ripeness of your pears). Keep an eye on the pears and the simmer, to avoid the pears from overcooking and loosing their shape! Test with a slender knife or toothpick until slightly tender. Set aside.
If pears overcook/are too soft, remove them and refrigerate for a few minutes until just warm to touch.
Pears can be poached up to four days ahead, and stored in fridge submerged in the syrup.
In a small saucepan, bring the walnut milk to a boil and add the Rolled Oats with pinch of salt. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and cook 10-15 minutes (depending on the consistency you like, I like them to still have some bite, not totally mushy). Stir occasionally. Cover and remove from heat and let stand a few minutes. If they absorb all the walnut milk before cooking to desired texture, feel free to add a bit more water at a time as needed.
I love for the oats to have some bite "al dente", while making sure that the balance of liquid/moisture remains somewhat loose and creamy.
To serve, in each bowl place about a cup of cooked oatmeal. Using a slotted spoon, place one of the pear halves atop the oatmeal. Optional: add date slices, walnuts, syrup of choice, and a sprinkle of buckwheat groats for some extra texture to contrast the softness of the pears!
Kitchen Tips //
- Vanilla Beans, if dried out - place them into your bottle of liquid vanilla extract to re-plump, at least one full day before you want to use them, or just keep them in there; they stay moist and soft, and none of the flavor is lost! If anything, they'll enhance your vanilla extract.
- Walnut Milk, To augment the flavor of the walnut milk, place walnuts in a glass bowl with water to cover them an inch. Cover and set aside to soak for 1 - 4 hours. Then drain and rinse before blending. This process is especially helpful if you don't have a commercial style blender like the Vitamix or Blendec, as the nuts will blend smoother. Soaking also helps remove tannins, which will lessen the astringent taste that some walnuts can have. Since the milk will be the base for the oatmeal to cook in, I do not strain it, as I feel it maintains more of the flavor.
Save remaining poached pear halves for dessert with vanilla or ginger ice cream, or blend them into a compote and spread them on a fresh, toasted sourdough with a soft cheese of your choice, experiment. Mmmm!
Do Ahead //
- Poached Pears can be made up to 4 days in advance, stored in their syrup in fridge.
- Walnut Milk can be made up to 4 days in advance, stored in the fridge.