Monthly Archives:

February 2010

Millet

This is one grain that took me a little time to get used to.  It has a distinct slightly sweet, nutty taste (although not the nutty flavor of buckwheat), and tends to have a consistency on the drier side.  However, millet has increasingly grown on me, as I have experimented and found different ways in keeping it moist.  In my opinion, the key to tasty millet is moist millet.

Millet is a small, globular grain that has been consumed in Africa, China, and India for thousands of years.  The ancient grain dates as far back as the Bible, as it is briefly mentioned as an ingredient in making bread.  Presently covering nearly 100 million acres within Africa and India, millet is a staple grain that sustains 1/3 of the world’s population.

However, within North America, it seems as though millet is most prevalently found in bird seed.  But, millet certainly proves more than worthy for human consumption.  One cup cooked contains six grams of protein, two grams of fiber, and only 200 calories.  Millet is also a rich source of trace minerals such as manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus.

To prepare millet, rinse thoroughly, and then add one part millet with 3 1/4 parts water.  Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for approximately 40 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.  Make sure to keep the lid on the whole time after the mixture is brought to a boil.  This will help to keep the millet from getting dry.  It’s also important to keep a lid on the pan after finished cooking when not being served to help keep all the moisture sealed in.

For lunch/dinner, I enjoy millet lightly seasoned with soy sauce, using it as a replacement for the typical rice/potato side dish.  If I have leftovers, I almost always utilize it for breakfast.  Adding milk helps to re-moisten the millet that often becomes dry and coagulated over night, and adding raisins, cranberries, or any other dried fruit compliments the nuttiness of the grain (similar to the quinoa recipe I previously posted).

However my favorite way to eat millet….will be revealed in my next post.  Stay tuned for the recipe that has made me absolutely fall in love with millet!

Buckwheat Groats

Buckwheat isn’t actually a grain.  Instead, buckwheat comes from a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel.  However, I wanted to include it in my series of posts highlighting my favorite whole grains because its taste and texture very much resemble that of a typical whole grain.  Buckwheat can easily act as a substitute for most whole grains.

I love buckwheat because of its intensely nutty flavor.  While I’ve mentioned a slightly nutty taste to describe the flavor of the previous grains I have featured, buckwheat contains a distinct, almost roasted nutty flavor.  Buckwheat wouldn’t be considered a mild flavored grain.  Because of its relatively strong flavor, I actually prefer to eat it plain with just a light drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  (However, this may be the purest shining through in me, since I tend to like things simple).

Like the majority of whole grains, buckwheat contains not only star quality taste, but some added health benefits as well.  Studies have shown that buckwheat can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.  Just one cup contains 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.  Buckwheat also has substantial amounts of an array of minerals, which include magnesium, copper, manganese, and phosphorus.  What’s particularly special about buckwheat is that it provides a tasty, gluten-free alternative for those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or have sensitivities to gluten.

Buckwheat is super easy to make, and doesn’t take all that much time to cook.  Simply combine one part buckwheat (rinsed) with two parts water in a saucepan.  Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed.  Top with whatever seasonings are desired.  As mentioned before, just a little olive oil, and S&P can go a long way.  Buckwheat makes a great side dish and is suitable for a delicious breakfast cereal as well.  It’s also a great bulking agent to add to soups and stews.

Store buckwheat kernels in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.  If stored properly, buckwheat can keep for up to a year.

Bulghur Lentil Pilaf with Tahini-Herb Sauce

This was a recipe I actually got from the Food Network Kitchen.  I was quite impressed with the results.  The moderately mild flavors of the lentils and bulghur pair perfectly with the creamy, herbiness of the tahini sauce.  The pilaf requires a few steps and a handful of ingredients, but it’s really rather easy to make and is worth your time.

Bulghur Lentil Pilaf with Tahini-Herb Sauce

Pilaf
-4 cups water
-1 cup lentils
-2 large onions, diced
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil  (I reduced this to about 3 Tbsp.)
-1 cup bulghur, medium grind
-1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
-Freshly ground black pepper

Topping
-2 cups grape tomatoes, halved  (I felt that one cup sufficed)
-1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, mint, or dill, or combo.

Tahini-Herb Sauce
-1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
-1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
-1/4 cup water
-1/4 cup tahini
-2 tsp. honey
-1 garlic clove, smashed
-1 tsp. kosher salt
-Freshly ground black pepper

For the pilaf:  In a medium saucepan, bring the water and lentils to a boil.  Adjust heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, fry the onions in olive oil over medium heat until well browned, about 12 minutes.  (If onions begin to stick, add a few Tbsp. of water).  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  To the pan with the lentils, add the onions, bulghur, and 1 1/2 tsp. salt.  Bring to a full simmer, cover, and cook 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand for an additional 15 minutes.

While the mixture is standing, make the tahini-herb sauce by pureeing all ingredients in a blender of food processor.  (I found that a  food processor worked best).

Transfer pilaf to a serving dish and top with tomatoes and herbs.  Serve with drizzled tahini-herb sauce over top.

Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur wheat is made from kernels of wheat that have been boiled, dried, and then crushed.  It has been a staple grain in the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years.

Bulgur has become increasingly popular in America, as the Mediterranean diet is progressively being advocated as an emblem of health.  Bulgur is widely known as the key ingredient in tabbouleh, a pilaf of which typically includes olive oil, lemon juice, spices, tomatoes, and of course, bulghur.

This longstanding grain has a slightly nutty flavor as well as a moderately chewy and soft texture.

Bulgur is a part of the Mediterranean diet that is worth boasting about in terms of nutrition.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) ranks bulgur wheat as the number one grain in a scoring of nutrition, winning out over wheat germ, pearled barley, brown rice and pasta.  Per one cup cooked, bulgur has 8 grams of fiber, or 33% DV.  It also has 6 grams of protein and 11% DV of iron for only 150 calories.  Bulghur is also exceptionally high in manganese and magnesium.

One of my favorite things about bulgur is its quick cooking time.  Some people prepare it by simply boiling water, pouring it over the bulgur wheat, and letting it stand for 15-20 minutes until it absorbs most of the water.  I prefer a softer texture, so I like to actually cook the bulgur wheat.  For four servings, combine one cup bulgur wheat with two cups water, bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Bulgur can either be eaten plain with either a drizzle of soy sauce or olive oil, or it can be mixed into countless

Simply prepared

recipes.  As I’ve mentioned before, tabbouleh is one of the most popular ways to utilize bulgur, and also one of my favorite ways.  The following is a recipe that I loosely follow.  It’s not all that original, but sometimes classic is the way to go.  I

tend to just eyeball the ingredients, but the measurements are my best guess as to what actually goes into my tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh
-1 cup bulgur wheat
-1 lemon, squeezed
-2 tbsp. olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
-2 Tbsp. fresh mint. or 2 tsp. dried mint
-1/4 cup parsley, chopped
-1/2 cup chick peas, drained
-Salt and pepper, to taste  (a few cracks around the bowl)
-1/4 cup radishes, chopped (optional)
-1/4 cup cucumber, chopped (optional)
-10-15 cherry tomatoes, sliced (optional)

Combine bulghur with two cups of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.  Transfer bulghur to a large serving bowl, and fluff with a fork.  Add remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly.  Garnish with a few fresh mint or parsley leaves on top.

Quinoa Breakfast Cereal

My favorite way to eat quinoa is actually for breakfast.  If you make a pot for dinner, be sure to make extra for the morning.  The following general recipe combines leftover quinoa with a couple of key ingredients to make a quick and easy breakfast that I currently believe is able to beat out almost any oatmeal concoction!

Quinoa Breakfast Cereal

-Leftover quinoa*
-Raisins
-Soy Milk
-Brown sugar
-Salt

Place a serving of quinoa (however much you’re hungry for) into a bowl.  Stir in enough soymilk to moisten as well as a handful of raisins.  Heat in microwave for two minutes, or until thoroughly heated.  Top with cold soy milk, brown sugar, and salt, to taste.

*If you don’t have any leftover quinoa but would still like to enjoy some for breakfast, quinoa really doesn’t take too much time to make and can be easily cooked from scratch in the morning if desired.  Instead of following the cooking method mentioned yesterday, try combining one cup of quinoa with 1 1/2 cups of soymilk and a handful of raisins.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 15-20 minutes for an extra creamy porridge.  Like above, top with brown sugar and salt.  Feel free to also experiment with adding dried cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and/or chopped nuts.

Note to fellow food bloggers:  You’ll have to let me know what you think, since I know so many of you are such avid oatmeal fans!

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