Also known as Got Too Excited at the Mexican Market and Had No Idea How to Use Up What I Bought. I didn’t have any immediate plans for a bunch of fresh epazote and the little wheel of cotija cheese I found on markdown for $1. I had originally tried to make Salvadorean pupusas, which were edible, but the creation was too fussy and difficult to inflict on readers. (Believe it or not, I don’t post everything I make here; just dishes that are both worthy of making again and that I feel are possible for folks to successfully re-create on their own.) Instead, I decided to use the oat groats I still had on hand from the oat groats with blue cheese, walnuts & spinach and cook them as one would cook traditional arroz verde, in broth puréed with herbs. It turned out to be a great introduction to epazote, whose flavor can be kind of overwhelming on its own. If you can’t find fresh epazote (I don’t recommend dried), cilantro or parsley, or a mixture of the two, can be substituted.
If you’ve never had oat groats before, which are the whole-grain version of the oat, they’re a bit like barely; they absorb flavors well and have a satisfying chew. As below, it makes 4 servings.
• 10 oz. cremini mushrooms, washed, stemmed and sliced: $1.43
• 2 T fat (I used leftover chicken fat, you could use bacon fat, vegetable oil, butter, etc.): $0
• 1 1/2 cups oat groats (look for these in the bulk bins at a natural-foods store or co-op; it’ll be cheaper than anywhere else, if you can even find them anywhere else): 75 cents
• 1 onion, chopped: 25 cents
• 2 garlic cloves, minced: 2 cents
• Cotija cheese, for sprinkling (kind of cheating; this was $1 on markdown; queso fresco, ricotta salata, or even Parmesan could substitute): 50 cents
• 1/4 cup tightly packed epazote leaves (or parsley or cilantro, or a combination): 80 cents
• 2 tsp dried oregano: 5 cents
• 1 tsp red pepper flakes: 5 cents
• 2 1/2 cups broth or stock (I used frozen turkey broth): $0
• Salt to taste: 1 cent
TOTAL: $3.86/4 = 96 cents/serving
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Put the epazote or other herb leaves in the bowl of a blender.
Add 1 cup of the stock or broth and purée.
Heat an oven-proof pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the fat. When heated, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt; cook until mushrooms have released all their liquid and are starting to brown. Add the oat groats, oregano and red pepper flakes; and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the puréed herb mixture and the rest of the broth. Add salt to taste and bring to a simmer.
Cover, put in the oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until liquid has absorbed and the oat groats are soft but still chewy. Serve sprinkled generously with the cheese.
I’ve never heard of epazote before and now I’m curious to try it out. This looks like beautiful comfort food!