HEALTHY DIRECTIONS: SAVORY PECAN GRANOLA
By Stephanie Burt
Although Charleston, S.C. has changed much in recent years, many tourists still hit the cobblestone streets looking for heavy dishes such as shrimp and grits, she crab soup, and plenty of barbecue. For the decade that Chef Kevin Johnson has been cooking at his restaurant, The Grocery, he’s quietly eschewed such heavier dishes for the menu while still making it feel “very Charleston.” He focuses on local ingredients and their seasonality, and he also loves to build flavor and satisfaction -- two things the aforementioned iconic dishes have in spades -- without using a lot of added fat to do so.
“I’m continually looking to round out dishes, and I find that adding a textural layer does that, he says. “And I have a disdain for soggy things that should be crunchy, so I’ve noticed that I’ll cook a topping separate and add it at the end so it retains that crunch.”
The Grocery’s flavors come from the Mediterranean rim but the ingredients are Southern, so pecans are a natural fit to add that crunch. “This isn’t a ‘put it in a bowl granola,’” Johnson says, instead suggesting this mix can round out cooked peaches, roasted root vegetables, or top (not be tossed with) a kale, arugula, and apple salad.
“This is earthy and toasty with some heat,” so it can add some spice to a sweet dish and add some sweet heat to a savory one. Make a batch and keep in an airtight container to add healthy crunch to your cooking.
Kevin Johnson’s Savory Pecan Granola
Yields about 4 cups
2 c. pecan pieces
1 c. oats
1 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. sesame seeds
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg white
1/3 c. canola oil
2 tbsp. sorghum syrup - can substitute honey