Perfect Steel-Cut Oats + a Delicious Seedy Topping
This Seedy Nori Crumble can go on everything, including the oats
Hello and welcome into the thick of oatmeal month, aka #28daysofoatmeal over on Instagram (and now TikTok,). For those unfamiliar, this is just a silly challenge I devised for myself where, for the month of February, I document my daily oats and the different toppings and approaches that keep it exciting. This is year five! I figured it’s about time to share a proper recipe for the steel-cut oats I make all month long, which you’ll find at the bottom of this email. In addition, you’ll find a recent savory topping, the Seedy Nori Crumble.
In my kitchen there’s a pretty extensive collection of nuts and seeds (flax, sesame, chia, many different nuts), and while they’re all things I do cook with from time to time, it typically happens in spurts. Then they can sit around, taking up valuable real estate in the freezer or the crisper drawer of my fridge. So in an effort to address that, and to devise an all-purpose, nutritional booster to sprinkle liberally on all types of things, I started making this blend.
With the dried chilies and nori, it’s primarily inspired by shichimi togarashi. But aside from some heat, I’ve left out anything that’d steal the spotlight and might limit what you could do with it. The idea is that it can be used generously:
On savory oatmeal, of course
Sprinkled over pasta and other noodle or rice dishes (my miso-butter spaghetti recipe is coming this weekend for paid subscribers)
Over crunchy-lettuce salads, with simple lemon-and-olive oil dressings
To punch up olive oil, thick plain yogurt, or hummus when used as a dip
Garnishing sautéed greens and roasted vegetables
The recipe may a bit look fussy, but it’s all very straightforward: just roast your nuts, toast your spices, and then grind everything up. Then be sure to add it to your oats!
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Seedy Nori Crumble
Yield About 1 cup | Prep & cook time 15 minutes
The nori and dried chilies don’t break down well in a food processor, blender, or even mortar and pestle—it’s best to crumble them by hand, as instructed below.
Use your judgment with the chilies. I’ve been using what I believe are Chinese “Millet” peppers, which I picked up from my local grocer, and they’re quite mild. Break off a piece of what you’ve got and taste it. You may only need 1 or 2 of them, or you may want to opt for chili flakes instead.
Raid your nut and seed drawer to incorporate whatever you’ve got: other nuts, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, etc.
¼ cup (40g) raw cashews, walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts
2 tablespoons (20g) raw pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons (22g) raw sesame seeds
1 tablespoon (11g) flaxseeds
8 to 10 (5g) small, mild dried chiles, or 1 to 2 teaspoons mild chili flakes (see note above)
2 sheets (8-by-8 inches) untoasted nori
2 teaspoons (8g) chia seeds
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1. Roast the nuts: Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 325°F. Arrange the nuts in a small skillet or baking sheet and toast until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool.
2. Set a wok or skillet over medium-low heat, then one by one, toast the pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and flax seeds. Be attentive, swirling the pan often, until you get a nice, heady, wave of aroma, usually 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Toast the chiles in the pan as well, until they become fragrant. If they have stems attached, break them off and discard them. For a milder mix, break some or all of the chilies open and pour out the seeds. Crumble them with your fingers or use a chef’s knife to mince them. (Skip this step if using chili flakes.)
3. Wave the nori sheets directly over the flame or heat source (or under a broiler, if you have induction) until they curl and become crisp, 10 to 20 seconds total. Once cool, use your fingers to crumble them up.
4. Add all ingredients to a food processor, blender, or mortar, and pulse or pound the mixture until it has a coarse but even consistency. (If using chili flakes, start with 1 teaspoon and then add more to taste.) Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Creamy, Toasty Steel-Cut Oats
Yield About 4 cups | Prep & cook time 20 minutes
I haven’t found any of the time-saving tricks for steel-cut oats—soaking overnight, using a pressure cooker, baking, etc—to actually save me very much time. Instead I think it’s good to remember that steel-cut oats reheat beautifully, and can be batch cooked in advance.
Plant-based butter and milk work well here. You can also toast the oats in a dry pan and replace the milk with water, though the milk and butter add unmistakable richness.
Here’s a video tutorial. And be sure to explore the #28daysofoatmeal tag on Instagram for hundreds of ways to keep your daily oats interesting.
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup steel-cut or cracked oats
3 cups water
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Place a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, melt the butter and stir in the oats. Toast them, stirring or swirling the pan often, until fragrant and darkened a shade, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Pour in 3 cups of water followed by the milk. Bring to a boil, add the salt, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, partially cover the pan, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the grains are tender and the liquid has thickened. Know that oats continue to thicken quickly when taken off the heat, so don’t be discouraged if they look a bit soupy.
3. Serve immediately, or transfer to a storage container and allow them to cool before sealing and keeping in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, stir in a splash of water and rewarm in a saucepan or in the microwave.