Thursday, July 9, 2009

Holy Grains, Batman!

I love buying things at the grocery store that I have no experience with. Ostrich egg, sea beans, dragon fruit, purslane. At a restaurant, I always order the most exotic/unusual thing on the menu. My husband orders the chicken.

For all of the "chicken" people out there let's demystify some of the whole grains that are available in most supermarkets. These little guys rock! They are whole grains which means healthy but they are similar enough to rice, pasta and orzo that your family will probably try these without a revolt.

Whole Wheat Couscous
Think of it as your training bra of whole grains. Why? Because it takes 5 minutes to make and is versatile enough to add any refrigerator or pantry ingredients to it and call it a one dish meal.

-Use a 1 to 2 ratio, i.e. 1 cup of couscous to 2 cups of water or stock or fruit juice + 1/2 teaspoon salt = 3 cup yield

Bring liquid to a boil, put in a pinch of salt and add couscous. Stir once, cover and reduce the heat to low and cook for one minute. Turn the heat off and leave covered until all the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Then, FLUFF WITH A FORK. Do not stir with a spoon. Trust me.

Add a vinaigrette, broccoli, grape tomatoes & rotisserie chicken
Add olive oil & lemon juice, feta cheese, cucumber & tomatoes
Add walnut oil, orange juice, toasted walnuts, celery & shrimp
Add dried cranberries, orange zest, raisins & pine nuts

A little heartier than couscous, best known for it's appearance in tabbouleh. It comes in 4 different sizes/grinds from fine and medium to coarse. The following directions are for fine and medium bulgur identified on packages as grind #1 or grind #2.

-Use a ratio of 1 cup of bulgur to 1 cup + 1 tablespoon of water or stock or fruit juice + 1/2 teaspoon of salt = 3 cup yield

Bring liquid to a boil, put in a pinch of salt and add bulgur. Cover and turn off heat. Let steam for 10 minutes. Fluff up and serve. If serving cold, spread on baking sheet to cool.

-Add chopped tomato, red onion, olive oil & lemon juice, mint and parsley
-Molds well using bowls or ramekins for a nifty presentation (yes, I said nifty).
-The course grinds (#3 and #4) make great pilafs but need a grain to liquid ratio of 1 to 2 and need to cook for 10 and 20 minutes, respectively.

Farro is hot right now. Everyone wants to date her. I've seen a number of farro recipes in food mags in the last 2 months. Why? It's has a nice chew, a nutty taste and it's easy to prepare. Are we sensing a theme here? It also holds in the fridge well without getting hard or gluey.

-Use a ratio of 1 cup farro to 1 3/4 cup water + a pinch of salt = 2 1/2 cup yield

Bring water to a boil in a kettle. In a dutch oven or saucepan toast the farro over dry heat for 3 minutes or until toasty and fragrant. Add boiling water gradually, then add salt. Return to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat 20-30 minutes until tender. Check doneness by cutting a grain in half. It should be one color throughout the grain. Turn off heat and keep covered for 10 minutes. Drain any excess water. Fluff and serve.

-Try it with apples, dried cranberries, and an apple cider vinaigrette
-Add chickpeas, green peas, salami & a Dijon vinaigrette

Quinoa is the superhero of grains. It is a complete food with twice the protein, less carbs then other cereal grains with a bonus gift of the right amount of healthy fats. Boo-yah!

-Ignore what the packages say. Cook quinoa like a pasta, in a large amount of water, i.e. 1 cup of quinoa in 2 1/2 quarts of water = 3 cup yield. Add salt to taste after cooking.

Put quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until water runs clear, not cloudy. Quinoa has saponin which can leave a bitter, soapy taste if not rinsed first. Bring water to a boil. Add quinoa to boiling water and boil uncovered until there is no longer a white "dot" in the center of the grains, about 10-15 minutes. Taste for doneness. There should be a little crunch to it. Look to see if the little white comma-like threads have unfurled--a sign of doneness. Drain and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff and serve warm or spread on baking sheet to cool for cold salads.

-add dried blueberries, feta, arugula, red onion & almonds with olive oil and lemon juice
-add cilantro, corn, black beans, mango & avocado with lime juice and olive oil
-add currants, roasted butternut squash & pine nuts

Try a new grain this week, let me know if the two of you hit it off and in the comments share your ideas on how to trick them out.

For more recipes and info on whole grains, I highly recommend Lorna Sass' book Whole Grains: Everyday Every Way.

And by the way, all of these grains go with chicken.
Quinoa with pear-braised chicken, scallions & chile

1 comment:

Krista Schei said...

Fantastic post! Thank you. It was informational and helpful -- I will be using more grains... because now I know what to do with them. :) Kathleen Shaner sent me your way and I'm happy to have come across your blog.