Savory Spring Oatmeal with Carmelized Onions

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Oatmeal is not just for breakfast anymore!

Inspired for St. Patty’s Day, this savory side dish is not the usual rice accompaniment to most meals.

Asparagus and spinach with hints of lemon pair well with many entrees for spring, especially fish and poultry. Of course, for the less adventuresome, substitute rice for oatmeal and follow the recipe as is.

Note: Although steel cut oats are probably the best choice, I opted for rolled oats… the only gluten-free variety I could find.

2 cups oatmeal, steel cut or rolled
4 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for sauteing
1 leek, chopped
1 cup shredded or crumbled cheese (parmesan or goat cheese are good choices)
1 bunch asparagus (approx. 20 stalks)
2 cups baby spinach
1 shallot, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
lemon olive oil

Heat 1/4 cup EVOO in a heavy skillet on medium and add onion and shallots. Stir until softened, about 7 minutes. Turn heat to low and stir intermittently, for approximately 20-30 minutes, until onion mixture is browned and caramelized.  Set aside. Saute leek and garlic in 3 Tablespoons EVOO until softened and set aside. Snap off asparagus ends and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes in boiling water, till softened but firm. Immediately immerse in an ice water bath to retain color. Heat 3 more Tablespoons olive oil in a saute pan and add spinach, cooking only until starting to wilt, no more than one minute.

Cook oatmeal as directed on the package substituting vegetable broth for water. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Stir in leek-garlic mixture, cheese, lemon zest and salt and pepper.  Chop asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces and add to oatmeal. Also add spinach by stirring carefully not to tear spinach leaves. Top off with onion-shallot mixture and a speciality lemon olive oil.

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