A few years ago, inspired by a recipe I found in the New York Times that described a semi-savory version of the typically sweet stuff, I started making my own granola. As someone who craves salt over sweet (my favorite treats include dark chocolate covered pretzels, "adult" chocolate chip cookies finished with Malden salt, salted caramel goat's milk ice cream... you get the idea. In fact, as a kid, I remember stealing the saltshaker off the table, sprinkling copious amounts of salt onto my little hands, and licking it off in secret glee. Gross, yes. But true).
The thought of a slightly salty, crunchy, sweet snack got my taste buds and belly going. I was also intrigued by the idea of using olive oil as the base, which has numerous health benefits, and maple syrup as the sweetener (you know how I feel about maple). I couldn't have guessed that my Dad and friends would be even greater fans than I. Fortunately it's easy to make, so I can keep them happy and leave the kitchen... occasionally.
Our Favorite Granola
3 cups rolled oats (I like Bob's Mills, thick cut rolled oats)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T vanilla extract
1 cup pecans
1 cup almonds
1 T cinnamon
1/2 T cardamom
1 T coarse sea salt or Malden salt
1 cup dried fruit (such as cranberries, mixed berries, apples, or apricots)
Preheat the oven to 325. Combine all of the above ingredients, except the dried fruit, in a large mixing bowl. Stir well until the wet ingredients fully coat the dry ingredients and the salt and spices are fully distributed. Pour onto a baking sheet in one even layer. Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring occassionally, until everything looks golden and toasty and the smell of baked goodness is wafting through the air.
Allow the granola to cool slightly on the sheet, letting some larger clusters form. Before completely cool, break the granola off and place onto a new sheet or large bowl to finish. Once at room temperature, add the dried fruit (this step is important, as it keeps the already dried fruit from becoming rock hard with the added heat).
Serve over yogurt, ice cream, or with your favorite milk. Or grab handfulls of it and much away.