A couple weeks ago we resolved to eat more of the many alternative whole grains out there. Turning away from standard starches like white potatoes and white rice, we are now more interested in some of the more obscure, but delicious grains.
Here are a few ideas.
Wheat berries are the entire wheat grain. Usually they are bought dry, and they require long slow cooking to make them toothsome, but the time is worth it. The wheat berry is the epitome of chewiness, and we love it mixed with cut up fruit, especially peaches and apples, or as an add-on in stews or fresh baked bread.
Spelt genetically related to wheat, spelt is often found in spelt flour, or in the berry form. Use it much the same as wheat berries.
Farro is a blend of whole wheat grains, originating in Italy. It is used extensively in soups and in salads.
Bulgur wheat is dried cracked wheat grains, mostly composed of the rugged outer shell of the wheat berry. Garrison Keilor might refer to it as "Raw Bits," the grain that gives you the gumption to get up and do what needs to be done. I use bulgur all the time, and it has become a staple in my kitchen. I simply boil it in chicken broth, toss in some cut up onion and some green peas, and in minutes (it cooks very quickly) I have a great side dish. Dress it with a little olive oil, butter or grated parmesan cheese.
Barley comes in two forms, the slightly less nutritious pearled barley (just the inner germ) and the slower-cooking hulled barley which retains the endosperm. Both need a good deal of cooking, the hulled version at least 30 minutes more that the pearled. But the chewy texture and nutty flavor is wonderful and worth the time. I love it in the classic soup Scotch broth, with cut up carrots and tiny beef morsels.
Brown rice, a more rugged version that the all-white refined rice we see so often. But rustic as it may be, it is also much healthier. Once you get used to cooking with it you will miss your basmati a lot less.
Here are couple recipes from Jerry that call for whole grains.
From Bon Appetit, Created by Arwin Holmes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 oz. bacon (about 6 slices), cut into ¼” pieces
2 bunches scallions, green and white parts separated, thinly sliced
2 cups semi-pearled farro
½ cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup grated Parmesan, plus shaved for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring broth and 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat to low and keep warm. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until crisp, 5–8 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.
2. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. fat from pan. Add scallion whites to pan and cook, stirring often, until soft, about two minutes. Add farro and cook, stirring often, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute.
3. Add 1 cup warm broth mixture to farro and cook, stirring often, until broth is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Continue adding broth mixture by cupfuls, stirring often and letting broth mixture absorb before adding more, until farro is tender but still firm to the bite, 35–40 minutes.
4. Stir in lemon juice, half of scallion greens, and ½ cup grated Parmesan; season with salt and pepper.
Serve farro topped with bacon, shaved Parmesan, and remaining scallion greens.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
1tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup EVOO
1 large cucumber, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped mint
2 scallion, thinly sliced
1. Bring quinoa to a boil in the slated water. Reduce heat to a simmer, and let it cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.
Set aside to cool.
2. Whisk the lemon juice an garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk it. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Place the quinoa in a large bowl and pour the dressing over it. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Can be made a day ahead.