Quick! Name some whole grains.
Brown Rice: An obvious choice, the whole grain golden child of anyone who is into healthy food.
Whole Wheat: Not a favorite of the gluten-free crowd, but certainly a staple in the diet of many.
Oats: Not instant, of course; old-fashioned are probably the most common choice, but steel-cut are rapidly gaining in popularity (you can even get them at Starbucks now!), while oat groats remain a forgotten relation.
Quinoa: Well, technically quinoa is a seed, but it cooks up like a grain, so most people put it in that category.
Barley: It can be, but that bag of pearl barley currently languishing in your pantry is not actually whole grain.
Having a hard time coming up with more? Let me help you out.
Rye: Rye bread is a deli staple, but not something frequently consumed in the, er, average American household. I think. Or maybe it’s just not something frequently consumed in my household.
Corn: Yes, although you probably think of it first as coming either on a cob or in convenient frozen bags, corn is a descendent of a wild grass called teosinte, and corn meal is a staple in many kitchens. Cornbread, anyone?
Millet: Not just for birds! But if you want to make some, you’ll probably need to hit up your local health food store to find it.
My inner foodie wants to pretend that I regularly eat a wide variety of whole grains, but the reality is that I really don’t. I remember the first time I went to the food co-op in Davis, California, when I lived in the area, and I was completely in awe of their bulk bin section. Aside from all of the tasty dried fruits and nuts and granolas, not to mention their peanut butter machine that could make a delightful blend of half peanut butter, half chocolate, what really captured my attention was the abundance of grains that I had never heard of. Or if I had heard of them, I had never bought them, never eaten them, certainly never tried to cook them myself.
So I did what any self-respecting wannabe foodie and blossoming home cook would do: I brought home bags of amaranth and millet. I had no idea how to cook them. I had no cookbooks that featured recipes with these grains, only one cookbook that even acknowledged that they existed. My attempts at winging it were so-so, and needless to say I haven’t tried to cook either one of them since.
But now. Now I have a cookbook called Whole Grains for a New Generation, chock full of recipes for all manner of whole grains. You’ll find recipes in here for all of the grains listed above and more. Some are vegetarian, some feature meat, recipes for every meal of the day, including dessert! Plus detailed information on all of the grains, and even ideas for substituting if a recipe sounds good but you just can’t find any sorghum or teff on short notice.
My first foray into cooking from this book was a recipe for a dal with millet and wheat berries, although I substituted quinoa in place of the millet. Give it a try and add some whole grain variety to your diet!
Millet and Wheat Berry Dal with Cauliflower and Yellow Split Peas
1½ tbsp ghee
1 onion, diced
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste (or 1 tsp each minced fresh ginger and garlic)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cayenne, or more to taste
½ cup raw millet, rinsed
1 cup yellow split peas, rinsed
½ cup raw wheat berries, rinsed
½ head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1½ tsp salt, or to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt ½ tablespoon of the ghee. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until just softened, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne, and millet and cook, stirring frequently, until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add 6 cups water, the split peas, wheat berries, and cauliflower. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the split peas and wheat berries are tender and the cauliflower and millet are soft and falling apart, about 1 hour, adding the salt after 45 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and lemon juice.
In a small sauté pan over high heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon ghee. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture into the stew and immediately cover the pot. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir, taste and season with more salt if necessary, and serve.
Holly Scudero lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, baby, and cat. She has been writing for SBR/SFBR since December 2008. She’s a stay-at-home mama who loves to cook vegetarian and vegan meals, when she has enough time to cook anything at all! When not playing with her son, reading, doing copy editing, writing book reviews, or writing other things, Holly spends her time cooking, knitting, playing video games, watching her husband play video games, or listening to music.