You probably didn’t expect the first recipe I share from my little Japanese kitchen in rural Kaga to be granola. But a few weeks into my 2-month stay here I longed for whole grains, and for a simple sweet breakfast. I’d managed to set up yogurt delivery from a local farm, but the cereal selection at the small town supermarket is sugary and disappointing (to a snob from Brooklyn).
I love Japanese breakfast—miso soup, rice, fish and lightly pickled vegetables—but it’s not long before I crave something familiar, something that goes well with coffee. Even when I eat Japanese breakfast, I cheat and go find a pastry and coffee a few hours later. On the other hand, when Japanese friends visit me in America, it takes only a few days before I catch them eating rice and natto on the sly. There’s just something about the first meal of the day that makes you long for familiarity.
It’s uncommon to have an oven in a Japanese apartment, so I had to make granola on the stovetop. And I didn’t have a big pan, so I could only make a little at a time. But I came to like doing it this way. It’s much faster than cooking a big batch in the oven, and still makes enough to fill a little cellophane gift bag for a friend and get me through a week of (Japanese-size) breakfasts.
Recipe: Stovetop Granola
If you’re cooking in the US you can probably find all the ingredients at a supermarket, but in Japan you may have to go to a fancy department store. I got everything I needed from the Kyoto Station Isetan. Feel free to substitute other seeds, nuts, dried fruit and grains.
- 1 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
- 1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds
- 1 Tablespoon flax seeds
- 2 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 3 Tablespoons sliced almonds
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon neutral oil (such as safflower)
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 2 pinches sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons raisins
1. Set out a small cookie sheet (or a large piece of foil, or a plate), and a mixing bowl.
2. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the oats, stirring constantly. When the oats begin to smell toasty and color ever-so-slightly golden, about 5 minutes, transfer them to a mixing bowl.
3. Add the seeds, nuts, and oils to the bowl with the oats. Mix well, so everything is coated with a little oil. Add the honey and mix. I like to distribute it a little unevenly so the oats clump.
4. Return the mixture to the pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until it’s the oats are deep golden brown and the almonds are browned here and there. Spread the mixture out on the cookie sheet (or foil, or plate) in a thin layer. Sprinkle it with salt and scatter the raisins.
5. Allow the mixture to cool completely and become crisp before sealing it in an airtight container or bag. Depending on your climate, this will keep well for at least a week or two before getting stale.