This recipe applies the technique of making risotto to steel-cut oats, yielding a creamy, al dente dish that benefits not only from the grain's unique, earthy taste but also from its whole-grain nutrition. Like all whole grains, oats are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, but oats contain a particular type of fiber called beta glucan that research suggests may be especially good for heart health.
That soluble fiber is also a factor making oats a good candidate for "risotto," because it lends a thick, creamy texture when dissolved in the cooking broth. In experimenting with the savory dish, I have found the deep flavor of the grain pairs best with ingredients you might describe as earthy, hearty or nutty. Winter vegetables such as beets, carrots and squash work well, as do hearty herbs and aged cheeses.
Here, sauteed mushrooms, shallot, garlic, thyme, parsley and Gruyere cheese amplify each other and the oats in the deep-flavor department for a profoundly tasty, intriguing and satisfying dish. Serve it as a starter or side for roasted poultry or meat, or swap in vegetable broth and serve it with a salad in a larger portion as a vegetarian main course.
• Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television's "Ellie's Real Good Food." She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.