Get to know these 8 good grains

Get to know these 8 good grains

Bulgur wheat is steamed, dried and cracked wheat. It is known for its role in tabbouleh, a lemon salad with parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions and bulgur and in kibbeh (minced meat and bulgur mixture). Bulgur can replace couscous (which is a pasta, not a whole grain) in Moroccan dishes and is added to salads, soups and stews.

Soak fine bulgur in about twice as much boiling water as corn and let it stand for 15 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Medium and coarse bulgur should simmer for 10 to 20 minutes. Another product of cracked wheat, freekeh is made from young, green wheat, dried and roasted and has a subtle smoky taste. It boils in about 15 minutes.

Emmer is an old wheat grain with a nice tough texture and nutty taste that resembles wheat berries. Farro is often sold pearl or semi-pearl, which means that it has been ground (refined) to remove the bran layer. If it is pearled, it is not whole grain, but it still offers abundant nutrients and fiber. (This is similar to pearl barley, where the bran layer has been removed.) Look for whole farro and whole barley, which will take a little longer to cook. Pearled farro is cooked in 25 to 35 minutes.

Farro is a great addition to salads and cereal bowls as well as tossed with sautéed greens and other vegetables. Try farro mixed with chopped tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, feta and fresh parsley and drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar. You can also make a farro (or barley) risotto.

Kamut is a modern variety (and trademark) of old khorasan wheat. It is a good source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and many minerals. It has a firm tough, crunchy texture and slightly buttery taste. Let it simmer in a large saucepan with water until tender, which may take about 1 to 1½ hours (shorter if soaked in advance). Add to chilies, stews, soups and cereal bowls where the cereals will add a welcome toughness.

Millet is a small, yellow, pearl-like seed that has a slight corn flavor. The grain enjoys roasting before simmering to preserve its delicate texture. Rinse the millet and drain well. In a dry frying pan, heat 1 cup of millet over medium heat, stirring and shaking the pan frequently until the grains are lightly toasted and begin to crackle and bounce in the pan. Remove from heat. In a large saucepan, bring about 4 cups of water and a teaspoon of kosher salt to a boil. Stir in the roasted millet, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the millet is tender but still with a grainy texture.

Add millet to all kinds of salads, or serve it as polenta: Pour a thick tomato sauce (with or without meat) or roasted vegetables over the grains. Or stir boiled sausage into cubes and top with sautéed shrimp. Or top with sautéed greens and fried eggs.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), native to the South American Andes region, is fast-cooking, gluten-free and high in protein, B and E vitamins, iron and other minerals. The seeds can be white, red or black and have a pleasant grassy-grainy taste and delicate, slightly crispy texture. The seeds have a natural bitter coating of saponins to resist pests, so rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a sieve before cooking. Let it simmer in a saucepan of lightly salted water for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender and the seedlings look like small curly tails. Quinoa is a great addition to cereal bowls and salads, and to accompany poultry and vegetable dishes.

Wheat berries is the whole wheat kernel and has a wheat-like, nutty taste and lovely chewiness that almost pops in the mouth. The kernels may be labeled soft or durum wheat (the latter having more protein and gluten), spring or winter (based on when they are harvested), white or red (the color of the kernels), or not labeled at all. Cooking times range from 45 to 60 minutes or more (shorter if pre-soaked).

Use wheat berries in salads, add to soups and chilies, combine with beans and vegetables for hearty cereal or burrito bowls, flip with roasted chopped vegetables and combine with minced beef or chopped turkey to make healthier burgers.

Wild rice is technically not a rice or grain grain, but the seed of a water grass native to North America. It is gluten free, high in fiber, packed with B vitamins and some protein. It has a firm-chewing texture and tastes slightly vegetable and grassy. Boil 1 to 2 cups of wild rice in about 8 cups of lightly boiling lightly salted water until tender, about 40 to 60 minutes.

Blend wild rice with white or brown rice to make a pleasant mixture, add to chicken or vegetable soups, or flip with chopped carrots, celery, cucumber and / or peppers for a thick salad. The cool rice goes beautifully with fruit, such as dried fruits, blueberries and diced apple, and all kinds of roasted nuts.


Lisa Zwirn can be contacted at

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.