Middle East-inspired granola

One of the first things I did after getting back from Iraq this week was drag my granny-cart down to my friendly neighborhood Whole Foods and stock up on groceries (after taking a long nap, of course, since 20 hours of flying is not conducive to feeling rested). It wasn’t until later that day when Farrell was looking for something quick to snack on that I realized I had bought a whole bunch of ingredients.

After eight long months of eating nothing but pre-packaged, preservative-stocked cafeteria food, I sort of snapped when presented with such an array of cooking possibilities. I bought mostly flour, yeast, sugar, eggs, butter and tons of foods whose main use is to be made into other foods.

We ambled through the cracker aisle at one point. “Should we get crackers?” Farrell asked me.

Pshh! Heck no, I can make crackers at home.

Same scenario in the bread aisle. We already had a loaf in the bread machine, “If we need more I can whip up another one!”

So ambitious of me.

Then, Farrell had to run to the office and wanted to grab a quick bite on his way out. There was no time to make him an english muffin to toast and spread with jam and butter. The cupboards yielded no freshly-baked crackers to top with the guacamole that I hadn’t yet thrown together. I stirred some honey into a cup of plain yogurt (why would I buy flavored yogurt when I could customize it myself?) and sent him on his way, but I could tell I needed to remedy our snack situation.

Granola was the solution. It’s an easy snack that’s healthy, versatile and transportable. Whole Foods, obviously, has a wide variety of any granola anybody could ever want. Vegan, organic, local or gluten-free…but ridiculously expensive. My ambition kicked in again and I dreamed up a Middle East-inspired granola, perhaps as a subconscious tribute to Iraq (or Turkey)?

Or maybe I’m just a nerd.

A quick search for homemade granola recipes turns up more variations than I could possibly wrap my head around. What sort of liquids to add? What sort of sweeteners? Nuts? Seeds? Fruits? The options are endless; this is just what I whipped up today.

-Middle East-inspired granola- by Ivory Pomegranate
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon allspice and cardamom
3/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup rose water (orange blossom water would also work well with the theme)
1/2 dried apricots, roughly chopped (dates would be wonderful as well)

– Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, stir together oats, sugar, spices and pistachios.

– Whisk together the honey and rose water. They combine more easily if you microwave the honey for about 10 seconds.

– Pour the honey + rose water into the oat mixture and stir well to evenly coat all ingredients.

– Press into a baking pan or rimmed baking sheet. Parchment paper can be used to help prevent sticking.

– Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.

– Let cool for about 15 minutes before breaking up the granola. Stir in the dried apricots and enjoy! Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container.

I accidentally left my batch of granola cooling in the pan for several hours and had a solid block of Arabesque-granola goodness. The eventual result was chunky, just how I like it, but I had to hire some muscle (Farrell) to break it up! I strongly suggest not waiting too long to remove it from the pan unless you have a successful method to prevent stuck granola.