Genius Recipe: Nekisia Davis' Olive Oil and Maple Granola

Every week, at Food52.com, we're digging up Genius Recipes -- the ones that make us rethink cooking myths, get us talking, and change the way we cook.

Today: The sweet-savory granola that's setting a new bar.

granola

- Kristen Miglore, Senior Editor, Food52.com

Nekisia Davis was working 60 hours a week managing Franny's, the famous pizzeria in Brooklyn, when she started baking, bagging and selling her own granola at local markets like the Brooklyn Flea. Her southern grandmother had to first talk her out of the name "Neki's Nookie".

"Looking back," Davis says, "My grandmother was right." The new name Early Bird Foods, inspired by an old fruit crate label, suited her better. Three years later, she has a team of 10 and her granola is sold in 17 states.

As granolas go, hers is like muesli after a vampy makeover. Olive oil, maple, brown sugar and salt form a rich, shaggy crust on wholesome innards, like the oats, pecans, coconut shards, and various seeds in her best-selling style Farmhand's Choice (see recipe).

>> RELATED: See 7 Make-Ahead Breakfast Ideas on Food52.

It leans sweet, but olive oil fills out the savory undergirding in a way vegetable oil (the granola standard and a total wallflower) never could, and the salt keeps it from cloying.

granola ingredients

Making it at home requires pretty much only stirring. Oats and whatnot go in a bowl (stir), then go into the oven (stir, stir, stir). Granola! At 300 degrees for 45 minutes, you get absolutely no clumping or burning, and the nuts and things slowly bake up to a toasty crackle. FOOD52er vvvanessa (who inspired me to try it) says, "It's the only granola recipe I ever bother with anymore."

>> RELATED: Browse through loads of homemade granola recipes on Food52.

Making Granola

From the Flea, both Davis' products and her method quickly garnered fans in high places.Martha Stewart was one of the first. Then Melissa Clark. Then Daniel Humm, who not only told GQ it was one of his favorite things, but also began producing a version of Davis' recipe in the kitchen of Eleven Madison Park to distribute en masse.

Other overachieving restaurants will offer a parting gift of a perfect bundle of truffles or pâtes de fruit, but Humm (a chef known for his sea urchin cappuccino, suckling pig tasting menu, and 3 Michelin stars) sends every diner home with a jar of low-tech granola smattered with pistachios and dried sour cherries, very much like Early Bird's Jubilee.

It's a rare moment of homespun joy in a night of impossible excess -- and a testament to the bar that Davis' recipe has raised.

granola

Nekisia Davis' Olive Oil and Maple Granola

Adapted very slightly from Early Bird Foods' Farmhand's Choice Granola

Makes about 7 cups

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 1/4 cup raw pecan halves, left whole or coarsely chopped
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
Coarse salt

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Place oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, pecans, syrup, olive oil, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and mix until well combined. Spread granola mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until granola is toasted, about 45 minutes.

3. Remove granola from oven and season with more salt to taste. Let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

See a slideshow, save, and print the recipe here on FOOD52.

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Want more genius? Try Roy Finamore's Broccoli Cooked Forever, Northern Spy's Kale Salad, or Shirley Corriher's Touch-of-Grace Biscuits.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at kristen@food52.com.

Photos by James Ransom

dirty dishes

Pick up some of Early Bird's other goodies like Choc-a-Doodle Doo -- coconut! chocolate? granola! -- and Crack of Dawn B-bars, topped with Maldon sea salt, here.

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