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Savory Oatmeal with Pecorino and Swiss Chard

Oatmeal is comforting and homey. It’s one of those meals that fills our bellies and fuels our souls from the inside out. It’s become such a popular go-to breakfast that grocery store shelves are lined with what feels like ubiquitous varieties—pre-portioned warm versions (just add hot water!); cold, “overnight,” varieties that are ready-to-eat; or multiple types of plain, uncooked oats ready for your culinary creativity. Heck, you can even order oatmeal in the drive-through. But most often what you find are sweet, nut- or fruit-packed combinations.

While those are delicious and still deserve a place in our rotation, here, we challenge you to shake up your oatmeal breakfast routine and try a savory version. This hearty, cheesy, and veggie-studded oatmeal is actually equally delicious and filling for lunch and dinner, too. Think of it as an easier, faster version of risotto, and with the same toothsome bite as well-cooked arborio rice (so long as you use old-fashioned rolled oats and not the quick-cooking variety).

Getting started

We kick off the savory theme right out of the gate by cooking the oats in vegetable broth—instead of water or milk. Don’t worry, though: the oatmeal doesn’t end up tasting too vegetal, just slightly earthy with a satisfying umami element to it, too. Take it up a notch by making your own veggie stock at home. Savory oatmeal skeptics will still approve– we promise!

From there, we recommend topping your oats with ultra-green, barely wilted Swiss chard (keep the ribs in for both ease of preparation and also pretty color and a more fibrous bite) and quick pickled onions (which not only deliver fiber, but also feed those good bacteria in your GI tract). That said, if neither are easily available, or you simply don’t like them, try these substitution combos: wilted kale or spinach instead of Swiss chard; chopped kimchi or matchstick cut pickled beets instead of quick pickled onions. Don’t have Pecorino Romano cheese? That’s ok! Use any aged, salty, hard cheese. Or test out another flavor profile and go with aged Gouda or sharp Cheddar. That said, skip milder cheeses as they lack the depth needed to stand alongside the veggie broth-cooked oats and Swiss chard. If you follow a vegan diet, swap Pecorino out for your favorite vegan cheese or nutritional yeast.

If eggs are a part of your diet, it's a great addition to the bowl. Once you cut into the yolk, it not only adds flavor and a silky texture, but also a whole load of good-for-you nutrients to your oats. Think of the egg and its slightly runny yolk as the dressing to this breakfast-themed grain bowl.

There’s another incredible nutrition benefit to savory oats: compared to your run-of-the-mill brown sugar-flavored and raisin-studded oatmeal, savory oats are often far more satisfying. Put another way, the likelihood of you staying full until your next meal is higher. In this particular recipe, the Swiss chard and quick pickled onions add fill-you-up fiber. Vegetable broth and aged cheese impart umami—one of our tastes that is well-known for its satisfying quality. And the egg boasts protein and fat, both of which should keep your hunger at bay.

If you’re making this for one, not two—no problem! We’ve got you covered. Here’s what to do: Skip making the second egg. Then store the other half of the cheesy oats separately from the Swiss chard. If you add a splash of water or vegetable broth to the oats, they’ll reheat beautifully on the stove top or in your microwave. From there, put your bowl together per the recipe instructions (steps 4 and 5): add your Swiss chard (you can simply let it heat to room temperature if you don’t want to cook it a second time), fry your egg, dole out the pickled onions, and all that’s left is a quick salt and pepper sprinkle and you have a second meal at the ready.

Tips and tricks

Now, before you dig into making the actual recipe, here are a few pro tips: Simmer your oats slowly. If you let the liquid boil and keep boiling, you’ll cook the water off too quickly and your oats will either be too dry or end up with a little bit of a gummy consistency. If you let them simmer, chances are they’ll turn out creamy with a very subtle al dente chew left.

Stay at the stove while cooking the Swiss chard and eggs. These items cook incredibly quickly. Left unattended your Swiss chard will end up sautéed, not wilted, and thus slightly more clumpy; and your egg could cook through fully, which leaves you without that silky yolk dressing to mix in.

Prep all of your ingredients at the outset. Start with the pickled onions—slicing the shallots (or red onion) and heating the pickling liquid. Then while that mixture cools and the onions pickle, slice, shred, and measure your other ingredients. This recipe comes together fairly quickly and the best final product happens when all of your ingredients are at the ready.

Now, dig in and get creative! While these savory oats, made as is, are divine—the core components of this recipe can easily be used as a guide. Just try to stick (at least somewhat closely) to the proportions for a well-rounded, balanced bowl.

Savory Oatmeal with Pecorino and Swiss Chard

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 clove thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots or red onion
  • 1 ¾ cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups thinly sliced Swiss chard
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano

Directions

  1. Combine water, vinegar, sugar, ¾ teaspoon salt, and garlic in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Pour vinegar mixture over onion in a clean, heatproof jar. Cool, cover, and chill at least one hour.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil. Add oats, turn down to simmer, and let cook 5 minutes, or until desired consistency, adding an additional tablespoon or two of broth or water, if needed.
  3. Remove oats from heat and fold in cheese.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add Swiss chard, ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook until wilted, about 30 seconds. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Add remaining oil into the same skillet, add eggs one at a time and fry to desired doneness.
  6. Divide oatmeal evenly among two bowls, top each with half of Swiss chard mixture, ¼ cup pickled onions, and one egg. Sprinkle with remaining salt and garnish with pepper, as desired.

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