From the food editor: Warm up to oats at dinner
When it comes to oatmeal, I'm not a fair-weather fan. I eat oats just as often when it's in the 70s and sunny as I do when it's snowy and subzero. Yet I still have a hard time thinking about oats at any time other than breakfast.
Yes, oats do have a savory side. Especially steel-cut oats. The more hearty texture stands up better to bolder flavors and more diverse ingredients. But steel-cut oats can take 40-some minutes to make. I don't have that time at breakfast, let alone dinner. Popular manufacturers Quaker and Pacific realized the time bias against traditional steel-cut oats and recently came out with versions of quick-cook steel-cut oats that cook in two to five minutes on the stove or in the microwave.
If you want easy ways to dress up your steely oats, cook with other liquids besides water. For breakfast, cook in coconut milk or almond milk. Stir in bananas and macadamia nuts if you really want to kick it up.
At dinner, cook oats in a blend of water and tomato juice and sprinkle with Italian seasonings and chopped black olives, or simmer in chicken or vegetable broth and top with a handful of chopped bacon and some Gouda shavings.
Or try this recipe for Steel Cut Oatmeal with Sweet Corn, Tomato and Pancetta from the folks at Quaker.
Tasty tour: Wine Spectator's Grand Tour blows into the Windy City later this month bringing samples of some of the world's hard-to-find wines to Navy Pier.
The tour promises the opportunity to meet Wine Spectator's writers and editors and international winemakers and to sample more than 200 wines from around the world -- all of them top-scorers from the magazine -- without having to leave the metro area.
The tasting runs 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, April 30, at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., and costs $225. A light buffet and a souvenir Riedel tasting glass are included. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, which supports scholarships and grants to students pursuing careers in the wine industry.
Tip of the toque: Congrats to chefs Stephen Henry of the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago and George Engle of CityGate Grille in Naperville for their wins over the weekend at the Family Counseling Service Food Fight.
Henry's pastry-wrapped braised duck with plum sauce won the judges' prize for the night, while Engle's braised short ribs and blue cheese gratin took the Peoples' Choice award. They were two of eight chefs who prepared signature dishes for a sold-out crowd of 270 guests at Piper Banquets in Aurora. Besides the incredible food, the evening featured a raffle and live auction.
"A lot of work went into this and it's been well worth it; the guests are having a great time and supporting a great cause," said FCS executive director Eric Ward. He said the event is the organization's major fundraiser, bringing in 40 percent of its annual budget.
"For the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, this event is crucial to help us provide those services," Ward said.
Family Counseling Services has operated in Aurora for 90 years and provides a wide range of services to more than 4,000 people a year.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/DebPankey.DailyHerald or follow her on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter @PankeysPlate.