Monday, July 18, 2011

Whole grains are SO EASY!

Draft 2 - here is the chapter on boiled grains. I tried Bittman's grain recipe this afternoon with barley, with perfect results, and much more control than I have with the rice cooker. I almost can't believe that I used to routinely burn rice on the stove top. Why don't people normally cook rice this way? Any other way is just asking for trouble. Bittman is my hero.

I have yet to try many of the combinations that I have suggested below, but grains with greens are *excellent*, grains with nuts have a nice crunch, and I just made a small pot of barley with cheese sauce, onion, and grated beet root that was not only yummy and filling, but also the color of Pepto Bismol.

Boiled Grains - Rice, etc.

Most home cooks only ever cook one type of boiled grain: white rice. However, there are many types of grains, most of which can be used in place of rice, and all of them are nutritionally better than white rice.

White rice is the same plant as brown rice, but in white rice, the brown outer layer of the seed has been removed. This outer layer is more prone to spoilage, but it is also where the fiber and other nutrients are. When removed, all that is left of the rice is carbohydrates. Which is to say, white rice is nothing but empty calories.

All grain should be rinsed before cooking, to remove dust - *except* for white rice that was grown in the US. Like white flour, white rice is “enriched”, which is to say some small part of the nutrients that were stripped off have then been added back in the form of a powder.

To rinse grain, put it in a bowl and pour water over it. Stir the grains around with your hand, and then pour off as much of the cloudy water as you can without also pouring out the grain. Repeat until the water runs clear, or until you are bored. (I always give up after about three rinses.) Whatever water remains can go right into the pot along with the grain.

Whole grains can be cooked in a large batch and then refrigerated for up to a week. These grains can then easily be used to make various side dishes (recipe #), used as filler in balls, patties, and loaves (recipe #), added to soups or stews (recipe #), or just reheated in a little butter or oil (recipe #). Cooked grains can even be frozen for longer storage.

In Mark Bittman’s fabulous cookbook “How to Cook Everything”, there is an all-purpose recipe for cooking almost any type of grain. The recipe is as follows:

Boiled Grains (quick side dish, or make in advance)

This recipe yields perfect rice, barley, whole wheat berries, rye, wild rice, or hominy. The cooking time varied from 10 minutes to over an hour, depending on the grain used. (White rice is quickest, unhulled grains take the longest.) The amount of cooked grain this makes depends on the type of grain and the amount of water they have been allowed to absorb, but in general grains double in size when cooked. (The big exception is barley, which triples in size.)

6 or more cups water
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cup rice, barley, whole wheat berries, rye, wild rice, or hominy

In a medium or large pot, boil the water, and stir in the salt. Rinse the grain (see above for info on rinsing grain) and add it to the boiling water. Continue to gently boil the water, without a lid, stirring occasionally. Add more water if it looks like there is too little. Taste the grain every ten minutes or so. When they have reached the desired tenderness, drain them in a colander, and serve or use in another recipe.

If you want to move the grain straight to the refrigerator, cool them first by running cold tap water or ice water over them.

Reheated Grain (quick side dish)

1 tbsp butter or oil
1 cup cooked, cold grain
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter or oil in a pan on medium heat. When the butter is melted, or the oil hot, add the rice. Stir occasionally for about ten minutes, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Grains with Greens (quick side dish)

Try reheating a cup of grain with the addition of a cup or so of chopped raw or frozen greens, such as chard, spinach, kale, collards, or beet greens. Because the greens shrink so much when cooked, this is a great way to get someone who doesn’t much care for greens to eat a decent quantity of them.

Add the greens once the rice is hot. Softer greens will be cooked instantly; tougher greens may benefit by spending a couple of minutes over the heat.

Grains with Roots (quick side dish)

Try reheating a cup of grain with the addition of ¼ or ½ cup of grated or finely chopped sweet potato, yam, carrot, onion, or beet root. (Beet is particularly fun, because it turns things hot pink.) Add the roots to the pot when you add the grains.

Grains with Nuts (quick side dish)

Try reheating a cup of grain with the addition of a quarter cup or so of chopped or smashed nuts, or seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin (the ready-to-eat green kind), or chia. It doesn't matter when you add the nuts to the pot.

Creamy Grains (quick side dish or main course)

For a heavy and decadent side dish, or even for a main course, try adding a cup of cold grain to a cup of freshly-made cream sauce (recipe #) or cheese sauce (recipe #). To make things even more exciting, add greens, roots, or nuts!

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