Genius Recipes

Nekisia Davis' Olive Oil and Maple Granola

By • January 20, 2012 • 57 Comments

Every week, Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

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

granola

- Kristen

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.

Nekisia Davis  early bird granola

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 below).

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."

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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

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Want more genius? Try Roy Finamore's Broccoli Cooked Forever

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 [email protected].

 

Photos by James Ransom (except second row, courtesy of Early Bird Foods)

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.

Comments (57)

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Stringio

over 1 year ago adele93

has anyone got any ideas for healthy alterations for the 3/4 pure maple syrup - home made apple sauce, natural runny honey??

Stringio

over 1 year ago Dana Nguyen

this is the best granola i've ever had, hands down. I added 1.5 cups of dried fruit after it was finished baking (dried blueberries and currants) and loved the extra texture and sweetness. even granola haters loved this.

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about 2 years ago tgrllyct

I've made this several times now, exactly as listed, and have gotten the most amazing reviews. Everyone just loves it and wants the recipe. Thanks so much!

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about 2 years ago tgrllyct

I've made this several times now, exactly as listed, and have gotten the most amazing reviews. Everyone just loves it and wants the recipe. Thanks so much!

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about 2 years ago mehrunnisa

i made this today but with some changes. it's the perfect granola recipe. thanks so much for sharing it!!!

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about 2 years ago mehrunnisa

what a fantastic recipe. i used it as a base but changing the sweeteners. i recently bought back discs of coconut palm sugar from the malay markets in singapore and used that instead. definitely the most perfect granola i've made.

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about 2 years ago mehrunnisa

what a fantastic recipe. i used it as a base but changing the sweeteners. i recently bought back discs of coconut palm sugar from the malay markets in singapore and used that instead. definitely the most perfect granola i've made.

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over 2 years ago Momo19

Good basic recipe, I personally like dried fruit in my granola, and less nuts. I added a few handfuls of dried currants after toasting the granola,. Next time I will use slightly less sugar and mix up the variety of the add ins.

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over 2 years ago Josephine Smith

Just by reading the recipe here, my eagerness of trying it is increasing. I will post the my experience with this recipe after me trying it. I think gourmandia.com also have something like this. I'll check it out and try to have some comparison. Forgive me but I actually love comparing dishes. But don't you worry. I don't discriminate. Luckily if yours is better, I will publish this recipe at blog.gourmetrecipe.com
LOL ^^
Don't take my comment seriously...

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over 2 years ago softpunk

I love this combination of seeds with coconut flakes, but holy crap is it ever too sweet! Next time I think I will skip the brown sugar altogether with.

Stringio

over 2 years ago KayLizzie

I've tried many great granola recipes, but this one is the best hands down. In my favorite version I use a mix of slivered almonds, walnuts and pecans and add dried cherries and golden raisins. Yum.

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over 2 years ago Pei-Lin

Oh, I'm so eager to try this granola recipe! But in Malaysia, a tropical country (right above the equator), I find it hard to source unsweetened coconut chips, ironically. (We've got abundant fresh coconuts, though.)

May I know what other ingredients I can use in place of the aforementioned? Thank you for the help in advance!

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

How interesting! Unsweetened shredded coconut would be your next best bet, or you could try sweetened coconut while decreasing the maple syrup and/or brown sugar. Or you could just leave it out, or swap in more of any nut or seed you please.

Bananacakewithtangyvanilla

over 2 years ago cookingintheheights

you TOTALLY can skip the coconut...i never add it in to any granola recipes (not even to this masterful, amazing one)....and i think it comes out just dandy.

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over 2 years ago mollycumming

This is a wonderful recipe! The olive oil adds a wonderful flavor. I made the granola without the brown sugar and used only pecans, coconut and currants (no pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds). It was plenty sweet enough without the sugar, as the currants and maple syrup added just enough sweetness for my taste.

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over 2 years ago the musician, who cooks

Great googley-moogley this is some good granola! When I made it, I used sucanat instead of the brown sugar and a rounded teaspoon of kosher salt. I love the use of olive oil in the granola as well. I can see why it's the only granola vvvanessa makes, and as others mentioned, it is wonderful with whole Greek yogurt.

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over 2 years ago hobbit445

Any ideas for a substitute for the pecans? My daughter loves granola but is allergic to nuts...I normally substitue sunflower seeds in recipes but that might make this oversunfloweryseedy.

Gator_cake

over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I'd just replace it with an extra quarter cup each each coconut, sunflower seeds, and pepitas, then add an extra 1/2 cup of rolled oats. You could also consider pine nuts.

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over 2 years ago vagregory

I've been trying to recreate the flavor and texture of EMP's granola since I had it last year. This recipe does the trick perfectly! I was missing a few ingredients but couldn't wait to try it, so used walnuts, almond slivers, dried cherries and some wheat germ. Best granola I've ever made!

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over 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I made a batch of this last night. It's outstanding! Like hungryinRI, I'll cut back on the maple syrup and brown sugar next time, as I found it a bit sweeter than I like . . . that may have been due to having used grated unsweetened coconut rather than shards. Either way, this is such a good recipe; it's one I'll make again soon. (I'm sending most of this first batch to my two sons in college.) Thank you for including this recipe in the Genius series! ;o)

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over 2 years ago hungryinRI

I've favored the old Tassajara cookbook's granola recipe for years, but decided to try this, although going with what I had on hand: sliced almonds, oats, sunflower seeds, some flax seeds. Absolutely delicious, although I'll probably try cutting back some on the maple syrup and brown sugar next time. Thanks for this!!

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over 2 years ago SwoonMySpoon

Made this granola this weekend. Loved the flavor combinations. So simple, so satisfying. This will be my go-to recipe. Thank you!

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over 2 years ago rarchibold

This is similar to a recipe I have used, except substitute honey -- and much less than 3/4 cup! -- for the maple syrup. More like a 1/3 cup of honey. Go easier on the coconut too

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over 2 years ago jellygood

I too have been making this for a few years, since it was published in the NYT - I use a very grubby copy of the aforementioned recipe to knock up a big batch every few weeks. It is divine and equally good as a snack or topping on ice cream or yoghurt, as well as a breakfast cereal. I always use Maldon salt and and I season before and after cooking until it has the right balance of sweet and salty.

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over 2 years ago LizK

I've been making this for a few years as well, with pecans and sun-dried cherries. I don't worry about finding coconut shards, just use regular shreds. My husband ate three cups in about an hour with my last batch...

Mcs

over 2 years ago mcs3000

This recipe sounds divine. Can't wait to make it. I agree w/ @chubbybroccoli's comment on coconut - mine always includes it after being won over by it in Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry book.

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over 2 years ago ctgal

Well ladies, I followed the recipe exactly, got the seeds at Trader Joe's so they were not terribly expensive, and had the rest of the ingredients. I even had dried sour cherries and pistachios as well. And now...
I cannot stop eating it! I'm so sorry I made it! It is divine with vanilla nonfat yogurt and berries or bananas or whatever you have. It's also divine all by itself, as a snack. And it's added lots of calories and fat grams to my days. A little restraint Alene!! (That's me, talking to myself.) Love this site though. You all have become my favorite go-to cooking site. Many thanks!

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over 2 years ago saltandserenity

I just made and posted about Melissa Clark's version of this recipe. She uses virgin coconut oil instead of olive oil. This granola is a party in your mouth. Mornings around here have gotten a whole lot better thanks to this granola. Genius choice once again! Thanks.

Henrykiss

over 2 years ago arielleclementine

i second the praise for virgin coconut oil! it made the wonderful granola extra buttery and delicious!

Bananacakewithtangyvanilla

over 2 years ago cookingintheheights

This is a great recipe...i just serendipitiously found it in Melissa Clark's cookbook a few days ago, too. I made it yesterday and LOVE it...my variations are to slightly reduce the brown sugar and I also ditch the coconut b/c I never have it on hand. And i follow the advice of 'lacuoccaciccia" by letting the whole mess cool in the pan without disturbing for a bit after pulling from the oven b/c it chunks up beautifully & i LERVE what emerges: randomly shaped granola bars (see link here: http://bit.ly/ABOc0b )

Bananacakewithtangyvanilla

over 2 years ago cookingintheheights

I have to add one more thing -- just figured out why this is soooooo addictive and frenzifying for all who sample it:

this is the crackerjack of granola. doesn't get much better than that!

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over 2 years ago SpecialSka

This is a great recipe that I've been making for holiday gifts for a couple of years now. I use almonds and pistachios in mine, but other ingredients are the same. Is Early Bird available in the Boston area? Would love to try it.

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over 2 years ago murtz645

Is there a nutritional breakdown for this recipe?

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over 2 years ago vvvanessa

You can click under the picture of the granola here:
http://www.earlybirdfoods...

I'm not sure it's 100% the exact same recipe, but it is at least very close. And as tempting as it might be to scale back the sweetners or oil, don't. The recipe as-is is worth every calorie and fat gram.

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over 2 years ago daza

This recipe looks great... What I would like to know is: Is this cost effective? Some of those ingredients can be expensive on their own. Would those of you who have made this say that the cost is less than buying it in the store? I'm not one who likes to cook just for the sake of cooking, so if I'm not saving money then I'll just get it at the store. Thanks! Darryl -- but it does look delicious and I love granola!!!

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over 2 years ago vvvanessa

No, the ingredients aren't cheap (especially if you are using high-quality ones) but it for sure costs less than buying this particular brand of granola in the store. It retails for $8-$9+ for an 8-ounce bag while the ingredients for this recipe cost less and make scads more. Not that I would discourage anyone from buying straight from Early Bird, though, as Neki does impart a special touch on her batches of granola!

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over 2 years ago MrsWheelbarrow

Cathy is a trusted source on Pickling/Preserving.

Where to find coconut shards?

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over 2 years ago vvvanessa

Best bet is a natural foods store, either in the bulk section or in the section where the packaged raisins are. I've seen them at Whole Foods and various co-ops.

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Whole Foods up here carries this addictive brand of big unsweetened coconut flakes (in a green bag) -- hopefully there's that or something similar near you. Also called coconut chips, apparently.

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over 2 years ago Chubby Broccoli

Found this recipe about a year or two ago somewhere -- NYTimes? Martha Stewart? -- and it's been a huge hit ever since I started making it. Coconut chips are key, as is the olive oil + maple syrup combination. Everything else is negotiable.
Excellent with Greek yogurt and fresh berries -- you'll wow 'em at brunch.

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Could have been either! Though Martha actually published Neki's recipe, while NYT did Melissa Clark's version with apricots. I agree on all your non-negotiable points.

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I just pulled a batch out of the oven! Tastes as good as I remember! Thanks triple V & Kristen!

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Woo-hoo! Our pleasure (I can speak for both of us, right vvv?).

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over 2 years ago vvvanessa

Oh, most definitely, Kristen! And hardlikearmour, I'm glad to have converted you!

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over 2 years ago vvvanessa

Yay! Thanks for following up on my suggestion! I was one of Neki's guinea pigs early on and remember that we called it "Neki's Nookie" because the granola was as good as-- or better than-- nookie. While this could still be considered true for some, I'm glad she went with "Early Bird," and I love the name, theme, design, and especially the heart that goes into every bag of granola she makes.

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thank you for sharing it! They also have the most adorable website -- never has a shopping cart looked so cheerful: http://www.earlybirdfoods...

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over 2 years ago vvvanessa

The website is mighty adorable! And for anyone who's short on granola-baking time, shipping is always free when you order from the site.

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over 2 years ago fearlessem

I'm sure this is tasty, but to me a granola recipe that touts that there is "absolutely no clumping" is missing the point of granola!

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

You bring up a good point! I was thinking of big, sticky, unwieldy clumps, which I don't want in my granola. This one is looser, and every little cluster seems evenly glazed.

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over 2 years ago thirschfeld

that is so funny, I haven't made granola in a long time and told my wife this morning I needed to start making it again. The recipe I usually use is one I made which was inspired by a resto in Sante Fe. It uses pine nuts instead of sunflower seeds. I like the addition of the olive oil too. As usual another great recipe. Thanks for sharing.

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over 2 years ago thirschfeld

Oh I meant to add, I make a big batch then vacuum seal it and the pressure from the bag makes it form into granola clusters. Great for a to go snack

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I am so on board for the pine nuts.

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over 2 years ago Midge

I've been hooked on Kim Boyce's granola recipe, but I love the olive oil and seeds in here. Cannot wait to give it a try. Thanks!

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Ooh -- will have to check hers out too!

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over 2 years ago Bevi

My daughter has had the privilege of pairing her preserves in gift baskets along with Nekisia's great granolas. There is a bag on Early Bird on my daughter's shelf 24/7.

Miglore

over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

How lovely!

Gator_cake

over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I've had the good fortune to try a batch of this granola courtesy of vvvanessa, and it is amazingly delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe!