I never make granola the same way twice. I love the recipe with olive oil and maple syrup from the NY Times. It’s great with plain yogurt. Every time I make it, I use different nuts or dried fruit depending on what I have in the kitchen that day. Almonds and dried cranberries is one favorite variation. However, despite the use of olive oil in that recipe, I would never in a million years have thought to take the entire thing in a savory direction. When I saw a savory granola in Saveur’s Chef’s 100, that was something I had to try. Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York makes a savory granola that’s served on a tomato salad with mozzarella ice cream and is also used in a beet salad. He started by using puffed rice as a way to add texture to different dishes, and from there he added other flavors to the puffed rice until it seemed to become a savory granola. I loved the idea of it and of adding something grainy and crunchy to dressed, roasted beets. As with any granola, it’s very easy to mix and match ingredients to make use of what’s available and to bring in whatever flavors you wish, and my version ended up a little different from the recipe in the magazine.
First, if we’re calling this granola, I needed some oats to be included. I used half the suggested quantity of puffed rice and then an equal amount of oats. The original recipe suggests basil leaves, but I don’t have basil plants yet this year, so I used parsley leaves instead. Also, I did have some pine nuts in the freezer but not quite enough, so I threw in some pepitas as well. To begin, the parsley leaves were fried in canola oil and then left to drain and cool. The puffed rice, which is not sweetened, oats, pine nuts, pepitas, some finely grated parmesan, minced garlic, salt, and piment d’espelette were combined, and the fried parsley leaves were added. Honey was melted and added as a binder, and I also added a little olive oil to the mixture before it was spread on a baking sheet and popped into a 250 degree F oven for about 40 minutes.
The parmesan and garlic make this granola unmistakably savory, and the honey and piment d’espelette give it a sweet-heat personality. But, the crunch is what this is all about. Adding that contrasting texture to roasted beets and carrots topped with a shallot vinaigrette was a fun twist. As soon as I have basil plants with lots of leaves, I want to try this again. A basil-scented, savory granola sprinkled over balsamic-drizzled, sun-ripened tomatoes is in my future.