Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Going with the Grain

By Nicole Albert

NOVEMBER 15, 1999:  Whole grains. They're good for you, and you know you're supposed to eat them. You probably already know that a lot of the things we eat every day, like white bread, are nutritionally empty, but are you doing anything about it? Don't worry, many of us are unaware of how easy it is to cook grains and how versatile and tasty they really can be, so here's a little introduction to get you started.

Those of you who are interested in broadening your culinary horizons have a wide variety of grains to choose from: Whole wheat, quinoa, amaranth, teff, kamut, buckwheat, brown rice, spelt, semolina, oats, rye, millet and barley are some of the more commonly available options. Check near the flour in the baking aisle of your supermarket, or for a better selection, explore the bulk section at your favorite health food store. Generally, grains are inexpensive enough to allow you to experiment without the kind of pressure that experimenting with something expensive like filet mignon, puts on a cook.

Grains may seem difficult, but they are much easier to cook with than most people realize. The nice thing about modern technology is that you can buy grains either whole to cook from scratch or already made into a form that's quick and easy to cook. Basically, if you've mastered boiling water, you can cook grains. Pasta and noodles, for example, are quick and easy to use and can be made from a wide variety of grains. Regular pasta is made from semolina, but if you look for them, you can also find pastas made from buckwheat, kamut, spelt, quinoa or amaranth. All you have to do is use a whole grain pasta as you would regular pasta, and you've easily added new grains to your diet.

The method for cooking grains is simple: Bring the water to a boil, add the grains and them let them simmer until the water is absorbed. Brown rice, spelt, quinoa, couscous and buckwheat groats (kasha) cook at a ratio of one cup of grain to two cups of water, but for millet, amaranth, barley, teff, kamut, wild rice and whole oats, you'll need to use a ratio of one cup grain to three cups water. To add more flavor to grains, use vegetable or meat stock, wine, juice or beer in place of some or all of the cooking water. Adding herbs to the liquid is another easy way to add flavor. Once they're cooked, you can use the grains as a side dish or mix them with vegetables or meat to make a meal. Grains are very flexible, so if you're in the habit of making rice or pasta all the time, you can substitute any other grain to add variety to your meals. For more ideas, check out one of the many cookbooks devoted to the subject, such as The New Book of Whole Grains: More Than 200 Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Including Amaranth, Quinoa, Wheat, Spelt, Oats, Rye, Barley and Millet by Marlene Anne Baumgarner (St. Martin's Press, paper, $16.99).

Teff is a grain prominent in Ethiopian cuisine, and although it is native to northern Africa, it is now being cultivated in Idaho, of all places. Teff happens to be one of the smallest grains in the world, measuring only about 1/32 of an inch in diameter. One cup of cooked teff contains 387 milligrams of calcium (40 percent of the USRDA, which is more than milk), 15 milligrams of iron (100 percent of the USRDA) and is high in protein as well as fiber. You can buy teff in its whole grain state or ground into flour for baking. And I can tell you from experience that teff makes the best pie crust I've ever had.

With the holiday season coming up, why not make a resolution to use a variety of grains in your diet? You can start by using the teff pie crust recipe for holiday pies, and after a while you'll find that it's pretty easy to include grains, and tasty to boot!


Teff pie crust

  • 2 cups teff flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (do not use olive oil or any strongly flavored oil)
Mix ingredients together. Press dough into pie plate and prick with the tines of a fork. Pre-bake the crust at 375° for 10 minutes, then use this crust with your favorite pie recipe. It's easy, it's yummy and if you dissolve a little sugar in the water, the crust will be sweeter.










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