A Few Words About Grains

A Few Words About Grains

Wheat grains

A Few Words About Grains

Grains have become popular lately not only because they are nutritious, but because they are delicious, too. They are not difficult to cook. If you can cook rice, you can cook grains, however, they can be unpredictable, with cooking times that can vary widely.

Ways To Use Grains

Pilaf tossed with sautéed vegetables and fresh herbs

In place of rice or noodles in soup

Cooked with dried fruit and topped with milk or yogurt for breakfast

Tossed with chopped vegetables and a vibrant vinaigrette for a salad

Base for curries and stir-fries

Hearty stuffing for vegetables and roasts

Basic Grain Instructions

Storing: Grains stored in airtight containers away from light, heat and moisture should keep a few months. The oils in some whole grains may turn rancid over time, so be sure to smell before using. If they smell musty or off, they may be past their prime.

Rinsing and Soaking: Rinse grains thoroughly under cold running water until the water runs clear. Soaking is optional, but it is recommended for hard grains like kamut, spelt, and wheat berries. They will cook up quicker and maintain their integrity. 

Boil/Simmer: Bring water (as salt, if using) to a boil, add grains and return to a boil. Stir, reduce heat so the water just simmers, cover the pot tightly, and simmer. Resist the urge to lift the cover. Releasing steam will slow the cooking process. 

Test: Check grains for doneness by biting into it. Most whole grains are slightly chewy when cooked.

Fluff: When grains are done cooking, remove from the heat and fluff them with a fork or chopstick. Cover again and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 

Grain Varieties

Amaranth: Becomes sticky when cooked. Mix with corn, scallions and cooked pinto beans for a South-of-the Border side dish. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 3 cups. Simmer 25 to 30 minutes. Do not salt until thoroughly cooked.

Barley (Brown): Lightly milled to retain all of the germ and at least 2/3 of the bran for a tender, slightly chewy texture and a mild flavor. Use in grain salads, soups, stews, and chilis. Try barley as a stuffing for peppers, tomatoes or poultry. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 3 1/2 cups. Simmer 60 minutes.

Bulgur: Bulgur is cracked wheat that has been partially cooked. Most often used to make tabbouleh, a Middle Easter salad featuring parsley, mint, garlic, and lemon. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 2 1/2 cups. Simmer 20 minutes, fluff, let sit covered for 10 minutes. Or pour boiling water over bulgur, cover and let sit for 1 hour. 

Couscous: Made from coarsely ground, precooked semolina, couscous is technically a pasta, but is typically used like a grain. It cooks up in minutes, making it a lifesaver for weeknight cooking. Delicious tossed with fresh herbs, lemon, and toasted pine nuts. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups. Place couscous in a bowl. Pour in lightly salted boiling water, cover and let sit until water is absorbed and couscous is tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff.

Couscous (Whole Wheat): Whole wheat couscous retains the chewy bran layer of the semolina, which adds a nutty flavor and makes it slightly more nutritious. Delicious tossed with basil, garlic, and Parmesan. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups. Place couscous in a bowl. Pour in lightly salted boiling water, cover and let sit until water is absorbed and couscous is tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff.

Cracked Wheat: Wheat berries cracked into small pieces. Use in casseroles, salads or as a stuffing. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 2 cups. Simmer 30 minutes, let stand covered 5 minutes.

Grits: Ground yellow corn that cooks to a puddinglike consistency similar to polenta. The coarser the grind, the longer the cooking time. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 4 cups. Bring water to a boil (salt optional). Reduce heat slightly and slowly. Whisk in grits. Cook covered 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

Kamut: An ancient Egyptian wheat cultivated since 4000 BC, kamut has a rich, buttery flavor and a chewy texture. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 3 cups. Soak overnight in cold water. Drain. Simmer 45 to 60 minutes.

Kasha: Kasha is whole-roasted buckwheat groats. Because buckwheat is not part of the wheat family, it can be eaten by many on a wheat-free diet. Cook with noodles, use as a stuffing for cabbage, or use in casseroles. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 2 cups. Simmer 20 minutes.

Millet: A mild, very digestible grain, often used by people on wheat-free diets. Use interchangeably with quinoa or rice. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 2 1/2 cups. Simmer 25 to 35 minutes, remove from heat, fluff and let sit uncovered for 20 minutes.

Oat Groats: Rich and hearty, a great alternative to oatmeal. Also used in savory dishes like pilaf or stuffing. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 3 cups. Start in cold water and then simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Oats (Steel-Cut): Chewier than rolled oats, steel-cut oats are groats cut into smaller pieces. A perfect hot cereal for cool-weather breakfast. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 4 cups. Start in cold water and then simmer for 30 minutes.

Oats (Rolled): Often called old-fashioned oats, rolled oats are groats that have been steamed, rolled and cut into flakes. Great as cereal or added raw to cookies, muffins, pancakes, and granola. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 2 cups. Start in cold water and then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Quinoa: Pronounced (KEEN-wah), this ancient grain is packed with nutrition and has a light, nutty flavor that works well in soups, salads and pilafs. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 2 cups. Rinse well before cooking. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Rye Berries: Nutty rye berries have a terrific chewy texture that works well in a pilaf with brown rice, onion, parsley ad caraway seeds, or add cooked berries to baked goods for heartiness. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 4 cups. Soak overnight. Simmer 1 hour.

Rye Flakes: Rye berries that are steamed and rolled. Great mixed with rolled oats for a warming winter cereal. A hearty addition to breads and muffins. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 3 cups. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Bring water to a boil, add salt (optional), slowly add cereal, stirring constantly. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Seven Grain Cereal: Includes organic wheat, oats, barley, soybeans, buckwheat, wheat bran, corn and millet. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 2 1/2 cups. Bring water to boil, add salt (optional), slowly add cereal, stirring constantly. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spelt Berries: A mild, very digestible grain, often used by people on wheat-free diets. Use interchangeably with quinoa or rice. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 4 cups. Soak 8 hours or overnight. Drain. Add water, bring to a boil and simmer 50 to 60 minutes.

Teff: A rich source of calcium and iron, and it’s gluten-free. Makes a great morning cereal with a creamy-crunchy texture and a light molasses flavor. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 3 cups. Lightly toast grain for a richer flavor. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Textured Soy-Protein Concentrate: Not exactly a grain, this product is made from soy flour and is a wonderfully high-protein alternative to ground meat. Use it in stews, chilis, casseroles, and pasta sauces. Grain to liquid is 7/8 cup to 1 cup. To soften, pour boiling water over granules. Stir, cover and soak 5 minutes. Add to recipe and simmer another 15 to 20 minutes, or follow recipe instructions.

Wheat Berries: Chewy texture, high in protein; great as a stuffing or added to a green salad. Wheat berries labeled soft cook more quickly. Grain to liquid is 1 to 4 cups. Soak 8 hours or overnight. Drain. Add water, bring to a boil and simmer 50 to 60 minutes.

Wheat Flakes: Steamed and rolled from wheat berries; quick cooking. Usually combined with other cereal grains. Add to hot cereals, granolas and to casserole toppings for extra fiber and nutrients. Best kept refrigerated. Grain to liquid is 1 cup to 3 cups. Simmer 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.

Note: Groats (or in some cases, “berries”), are hulled kernels of various cereal grains such as oat, wheat, and rye. Groats are whole grains that include the cereal germ and fiber-rich bran portion of the grain as well as the endosperm (which is the usual product of milling). Groats can also be produced from pseudocereal seeds such as buckwheat.

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