Note: It took a lot of strength not to call this post avenatto di zucchine, or some calque like that. Avena is italian for oats.
Everyone needs a go-to simple, healthy dinner meal. Something for which the ingredients are always in the cupboard, the preparation takes mere minutes and the end result is satisfying. These meals, unfortunately, aren’t easy to come by. My current default dinner would probably be something as uninspired as steamed broccoli with barley and an egg. There was a period in time during which it was mushroom grilled cheese (I leave you all to debate whether or not that fits under the healthy bill) and another period during which the meal was zucchini oatmeal.
Living as a quasi-vegetarian in Italy isn’t hard if you like pasta. Unfortunately, after eating my share as a child, I’m not overly enthused about it. Once every few months is okay, but when the frequency goes beyond that I’m ready to face-plant into the perfectly shaped primo plate. Same goes for zucchini. I don’t love the vegetable, it doesn’t inspire the same feelings in me as cucumbers, for instance. Italians, however, enjoy pairing the two with an aplomb that left me astonished day in and day out.
I retaliated with zucchini oatmeal for lunch. The basic idea is simple, boil some water, toss in some oats with a dash of salt and a good chunk of grated zucchini. Doing so will give you a perfectly pleasant result, but nothing that makes you excited to sit down to dinner. A few simple upgrades, however, makes the meal worthy of anyone’s dreams.
The first time I encountered the idea of shoving some zucchini in my oats was on The Oatmeal Artist. It’s a delicious recipe, but a sweet one. Call me crazy, but I prefer not to have honey with dinner. What follows is an updated, upgraded and more savory recipe. Perfect for chilly nights, after long days and when you just want to read during dinner. Of course, now I need to remember to buy some zucchini.
Zucchini Oatmeal Risotto serves 1
1 cup water
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 medium zucchini, though really any size will do
generous pinch salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
2 T chopped walnuts, or your favorite nuts
2 T raisins (optional)
1 T yogurt/cheese of choice
1 T nut butter (sunflower seed butter is divine, but peanut will do)
1. Put your pot with 1 cup water on the hob and bring to a boil. Add a dash of salt.
2. While the water is coming to a boil, grate your zucchini on the medium side of a box grater. Set aside.
3. Once the water has boiled, add the oats and give them a stir. Add the zucchini immediately after, stir. Reduce heat and simmer.
4. Once a bit of the water has been absorbed, add the spices, nuts and optional raisins.
5. Cook until it reaches the consistency you like. The time will depend on the heat of your hob, how much zucchini you used (more zucchini = more time) and your preferred level of “clumpiness” for your oat-otto.
6. Take off heat, add to bowl. Garnish with yogurt/cheese, nut butter and anything else that strikes your fancy. Sprinkles of fine salt are lovely. Enjoy!
What is your go-to dinner?