Lemon Curd & Vanilla Bean Oatmeal

by Steven Behling

Oatmeal is boring.  My earliest memories of the sticky substance consist of snowy winter mornings in 1980s Utah, ripping open a brown waxy packet of Quaker Instant Oats, either maple and brown sugar or peaches and cream, and pouring it into a bowl of nuked milk.  Stir, stir, stir.  "Where's the brown sugar?"  Spoonful, spoonful, spoonful.  Choke it down while standing over the heat vent on the floor, shifting my weight back and forth to keep the hot metal from burning my toes while trying to direct the hot air up my pant legs.  Brush teeth, snow boots, backpack.  School.

Flash forward to college, when I witnessed a couple of graduate students in the psychology department at The University of Utah use hot water from the electric tea kettle in their shared office to subsist off the aforementioned oatmeal packets and Kraft Easy Mac.  If only I had paid attention to this and other warning signs, I might never have tortured myself with seven years of my own graduate studies, the first of which was frequently spent living off the vending machine across the hall and arranging the cushions from the questionable couch in the first year office into a makeshift bed so I could sleep on the floor of my advisor's lab when I was too tired to schlep home at 3:30am after hours and hours of running someone else's data.  Higher education, ladies and gentleman.  

In adulthood, it seems I've been blessed not only with male pattern baldness, but also with genetically high cholesterol.  Enter oatmeal.  Hello, old friend.  Let's see if we can dress you up a bit, make you a titch tastier.

Lemon Curd & Vanilla Bean Oatmeal

1 c steel cut oats
3-4 c water, milk, almond milk, etc.
1 vanilla bean, split
1 pinch salt
1 or more jars of lemon curd

Bring the liquid to a boil.  The more you start with, the silkier the oatmeal, but hey...some people like it thick.  Remove from heat, split vanilla bean down the center with a sharp knife, scoop out seeds, and drop them and the husk into your liquid .  Let sit for 15 minutes, returning to stovetop and bringing mixture to a boil once again.  Slowly stir in oats and pinch of salt.  Simmer on low, stirring periodically to prevent the oats from sticking to the bottom of the pan, about 30 minutes or until the liquid has been largely absorbed.  Remove from heat and extract the vanilla pod.  Scoop out generous portion and stir in lemon curd to taste.  I usually toss in a spoonful or two, more if it's the coveted lemon curd from Bridgewater Bistro in Astoria, Oregon, and it just so happens that my friend Lauren smuggled us some across the border during her most recent trip down the coast.  

Heads up...it smells like Play-Doh.  Tasty, tasty Play-Doh.


Of note, if one seeks a more floral experience, try steeping about a teaspoon of lavender buds in the milk, straining, and stirring in a tablespoon or so of rose water and a spoonful of caramel once the oatmeal has finished cooking and you've placed a dollop in your bowl.  Voilà!  Lavender & Rose Water Caramel Oatmeal.  #BONUSrecipe