Quinoa has reached a level of superfood not seen since the great conquest of kale in the 1980s. Equally accepted and ridiculed in pop culture, she has become the symbol of the cereal bowl generation. However, it is not the only whole-grain cereal that is worth bringing to the table.
The world of whole grains is vast, and if quinoa and brown rice are the only ones that have made it to your plate, it’s time to broaden your palate. Here’s an introduction to whole grains, along with tips for cooking and enjoying them.
The term ” whole grains ” or whole grains encompasses all grains and seeds that are, well, whole. They keep all their edible parts: the outer layer of bran, rich in fiber; the carbohydrate-rich center of the endosperm, which makes up most of the grain; and the inner core, or germ, which is packed with vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats.
On the other hand, refined grains, such as white rice and general-purpose flour, have been ground to remove the bran and germ, stripping them of much of the fiber, protein, and vitamins, and leaving only the rich endosperm. in starch.
“Many people don’t realize that whole grains contain several grams of protein, as well as vitamins and antioxidants,” explains Nikita Kapur, a registered dietitian from New York. With each serving of whole grains, “you get a ton of minerals, B vitamins, and fiber, which is especially important for gut health.”
So-called “ancient grains” fall under the realm of whole grains, although the phrase is more of a marketing term than an indicator of a more nutritious option. Ancestral grains refer to whole grains like millet, amaranth, Kamut, and yes, quinoa, which has been the staple foods of cultures for several hundred years. They are not hybridized or selectively bred grain varieties like most modern wheat, rice, and corn.
And while quinoa has garnered all the fame as a whole food superfood, there are good reasons to try others. Trying a variety of whole grains is more than just a way to add variety to your side dishes. It is also an opportunity to incorporate a broader portfolio of minerals and other things into your diet.
“Suffice it to say that we need a more diverse plant-based diet” to get the full complement of recommended nutrients in our meals, Kapur said, “and we can’t get it from the same 10 or 20 foods.”
“One grain may have more manganese, another more zinc or magnesium, and another more protein,” he added. “Try one as pasta, another as cereal … do what they call you, as long as there is variety.”
More familiar foods like oats, corn, brown rice, as well as wild rice (which is the seed of an aquatic herb), are considered whole grains, but there are many others that you will want to add to your regular repertoire.
Some whole grains to know
The amaranth is tiny grain gluten that can be cooked over low heat until it is tender to obtain a creamy dish like polenta, but it is also a delightfully adding crunch to the energy bars homemade or yogurt when it is roasted. To toast amaranth seeds, cook them over medium heat in a dry skillet, stirring frequently until they start to pop like tiny popcorn kernels.
The buckwheat contains no gluten and is botanically related to rhubarb, but these polygonal seeds (also called groats) do not know fruit. You may already be familiar with buckwheat flour, which is used in pancakes and soba noodles, or Eastern European kasha, which is simply roasted buckwheat.
Farro is the Italian name that encompasses three forms of ancient wheat: farro piccolo, or einkorn; middle farro, or emmer; and big farro, or spelled. The farro that we usually find in the store is of the emmer variety, and it is a rustic and puffed wheat berry that is ideal as a base for a bowl of cereal. You can also make a creamy farro risotto with Parmesan for an Italian-inspired dish.
The frikeh or farik is a wheat variety that is harvested before they are ripe and then roasted to obtain a smoked flavor surprisingly nutty and chewy texture. The flavor of frikeh is distinctive enough to steal the limelight from other ingredients, so use it in a way that brings out its flavor. It’s great in a vegetarian bowl with hot sauce or a comforting chicken stew.
The Kamut is the trademark of an ancient type of wheat called Khorasan, which has large grains, a mild flavor, and a soft texture. It makes a good neutral substitute for brown rice in a pilaf or as a side dish. Or try this protein-rich grain in a salad with bold flavors like arugula, blood orange, and walnut.
The Millet is a gluten-free seed with a cooked texture similar to couscous. Teff is a small variety of millet that is most often used as a flour base for Ethiopian flatbread called injera. Mix raw millet into batters for a crunchy texture, like in this Skillet Millet Cornbread recipe, or use the cooked teff or millet in a cooked breakfast cereal.
How to cook any whole grain
Although cooking times vary for each grain, there is a way to cook any whole grain, be it a tiny seed or a large grain: boil it like pasta.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a handful of kosher salt. Add the grains and cook, tasting as you go, until tender. Small grains, such as amaranth and quinoa, can be fully cooked in five to 15 minutes, while larger grains, such as farro and wild rice, can take between 30 minutes and an hour, so you have to keep an eye on the pot and test frequently.
Drain well in a mesh strainer (to catch all those little grains) and use immediately or let it cool slightly and refrigerate for other dishes. Cooked whole grains can also be portioned, frozen, and stored in airtight bags for up to six months.
If you want to cook your whole grains in an Instant Pot, this chart provides the grain-to-water ratios for many of the grains listed.