Savory Oatmeal with Kale and Mushrooms

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Breakfast – for some people it’s as easy as opening a box of cereal and pouring on the milk. For me, it’s never been that simple. For all you cereal lovers out there, I’m sorry, but I just can’t stand cold cereal. It was the breakfast of choice for my busy parents to feed us as kids, but somewhere on the way to growing up, I liked it less and less until it reached the point that I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I decided to rebel.

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My father and I always enjoyed something else for breakfast on the weekends after watching Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, our favorite cartoon. Breakfast might be Pop Tarts, or toast with peanut butter or Cheese Whiz. It was NEVER cereal. So, that fateful morning I told my mother I was not going to eat cereal, that I wanted something else for breakfast instead. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: my mother told me I would sit at that table until I finished my cereal, “or else.” Well, my dislike for cereal was certainly stronger than my desire to go to school. Duh! So hours later, well after school had started, there I sat in front of a bowl of really soggy cereal. I never ate cold cereal again.

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These days I’m always on the lookout for decent dishes to make for breakfast that are relatively healthy and don’t take a ton of work. I still dislike cold cereal, but have gradually started to add hot cereal or grain bowls to my breakfast selections. I’ve always been more about savory than sweet, and breakfast is no different. So when I came across a recipe for savory oatmeal, I had to try it.

This oatmeal is delicious. It really tastes more like a rice bowl than oatmeal. I made it even more so by adding some soy sauce and a splash of Siracha sauce. Yes, I’m weird that way.

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Savory Oatmeal with Kale and Mushrooms

4 Servings

The only drawback to this dish is that steel cut oats take a little time to cook. I made this the day before I planned to eat it and it warmed up in the microwave just fine. Oats are supposedly easier to digest if they are soaked even for a short time before cooking them, if not overnight. I soaked them for the time it took me to chop and sauté the vegetables. Place the oats in a bowl, cover with water, add a tablespoon of cider vinegar and soak for the length of time you have available, up to over night. Gomasio is a dry Asian condiment made of sesame seeds, seaweed, and salt. You can substitute sesame seeds of you don’t have it.

1 cup steel cut oats

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

pinch of red pepper flakes

1 bunch kale, stems stripped and discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps sliced

1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted

Gomasio or sesame seeds for sprinkling

Place the oats in a large saucepan (preferably non-stick) with 4 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, 30–60 seconds. Add the kale and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté 6–8 minutes, until tender.

Divide the oats between four bowls. Top with the sautéed vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with toasted walnuts and sprinkle with Gomasio.

Adapted from Kitchen Matters by Pamela Salzman

Props used in the photos courtesy of Brian & Herma Leak

Buckwheat-Feta Burgers with Parsley Sauce

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Today’s recipe is gluten-free and vegetarian — a far cry from Paleo or Primal. So it seemed a good time to discuss my food philosophy a bit. What else should we do when ice is falling out of the grey sky?

Since starting Jeannine’s Cuisine (the blog, not the personal chef business), I’ve often toyed with the idea that I should have some sort of brand, or theme, or specialty. Actually, when people find out I went to culinary school and cooked professionally, one of the first things I’m asked is what I specialize in. Huh? Okay, I love all things Mediterranean; after all, I lived in Greece. But I love a good Asian meal as well. Let’s not forget the French influence from culinary school and trips abroad, and then there’s the pastry. So I guess my brand is just what it says…Jeannine’s Cuisine. This is the way I cook and eat. Sometimes, I prepare a totally Paleo meal for my husband. Other times he fends for himself while I have macaroni and cheese.

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There are a million diets/eating plans out there. Hardly a day goes by without hearing about a new one. I want to be healthy and happy just as much as the next person, but I am of a mind that as long as I focus on lots of good produce, some healthy, i.e. grassfed/organic protein, and, for me, some whole grains, I can afford the occasional indulgence. I’ve done a lot of reading on nutrition, both the low fat (remember those days?) and the low carb camps. I’ve read the testimonials and think for many people, especially those with autoimmune issues or food allergies, the Paleo diet can be a lifesaver. I’m just not one of them.

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So what can you expect on Jeannine’s Cuisine? Real food. We avoid processed food as much as possible, buy organic when we can, and aside from some whole grain bread from Whole Foods and a stash of Greek yogurt, we generally try to make everything from scratch. But there are limits. I don’t have a dairy cow or goats to make my own cheese, nor do I raise chickens and don’t intend to start. And yes, after a long day at work, I’ve been known to order pizza or Chinese. Gasp! But you won’t find recipes calling for packaged foods or cans of mushroom soup here. What you will find is a variety of good food. Some recipes are easy and suitable for a week night, others take a little (or a lot) more work. But they are so worth it.

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I’ve been trying to add more whole grains into my diet, without feeling like I’m having cereal for lunch or dinner. These burgers hit the nail on the head. The buckwheat cooks up just a little bit crunchy on the outside then you bite into the creamy center flavored with feta cheese and thyme. The parsley sauce is a little bit like Argentine chimichurri – tangy and little bit citrusy, a nice contrast to the nuttiness of the buckwheat.

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Buckwheat-Feta Burgers with Parsley Sauce

4 Servings

You will need to find raw buckwheat groats for this recipe, not kasha, which is toasted buckwheat. You might be able to find it at the larger Whole Foods stores, but you can definitely buy it online from Amazon. The parsley sauce that accompanies the burgers can stand on its own. I imagine it would be delicious with pan-roasted salmon. Or, you could also dilute it with a little oil and vinegar and use it for salad dressing. I prefer the burgers plain, but you could also serve them in lettuce leave or on a regular bun with lettuce, onion, and tomato.

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup buckwheat groats

3/4 teaspoon fine salt, divided

1 cup clean, dry lightly packed fresh parsley leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1/4 teaspoon, plus a large pinch red pepper flakes, divided

a few drops Tabasco sauce

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)

6 tablespoons quick cooking oats

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare the buckwheat by placing the water, buckwheat and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Place buckwheat in a large bowl and set aside for 20 minutes while you make the sauce.

Place parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic oregano, red pepper flakes and Tabasco in the bowl of a mini food processor. Pulse until chopped; then, with the machine running slowly, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and blend until combined.

Make the burgers by adding the feta cheese, onion, oats, egg, thyme leaves, and peppers to the buckwheat in the bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Use a table knife to divide the mixture (it will be thick and sticky) into four portions. Using wet hands, divide each of the four portions into two and form into burgers, approximately 3 inches in diameter. Place them on a sheet pan or large plate.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add four of the eight burgers and cook approximately 4 minutes per side until golden brown. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining four burgers. Serve warm or at room temperature with the sauce.

Adapted from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck