Grains Go Old-School, Really Old-School

Whole grainsI am very much a whole grain gal. My mom made our sandwiches on whole wheat bread before it was fashionable to do so. I eat whole grain cereal for breakfast almost every day. And dinner usually includes a whole grain side dish. So I was really excited to see a lot of whole grain products at Expo West. But rather than talk about a lot of different companies, in this post I want to shout out to one of my favorites, Bob’s Red Mill. Bob’s Red Mill sells dozens and dozens of different grains in different forms. You can find a reasonable to excellent selection in your local market or health food store, depending on the chain, or order straight from the company website.

At Expo West, Bob’s Red Mill handed out samples of two “ancient grains,” sorghum and spelt. Ancient grains were eaten back in the Biblical days, give or take, and fell out of use until recently, when the quest for gluten-free grains brought back several of these really old-school varieties. I love ancient grains, or grains-of-discovery as Bob’s calls them, for their al dente texture and nutty flavor. My only caution is that you have to plan ahead because they take a long time to cook.

In the spring and summer, I like to cook up a pot of grain, chill it overnight, and use it in a grain salad. I follow a basic recipe for my grain salads, drizzling the grains with plain or flavored oil and stirring to coat the grains, then adding something sour like vinegar or lemon juice, something sweet (usually fruit), something crunchy like vegetables and nuts, and fresh herbs. Any of these old-school ancient grains work:

Amaranth – Actually a small seed that comes from Mexico, amaranth looks a bit like quinoa, another ancient grain from a bit further south in South America.

Farro, kamut, and spelt – All three are wheat varieties from the Middle East and Mediterranean.

Teff – This tiny grain kernel is common in Ethiopia.

Millet and sorghum – Millet is the more familiar of these round grains; sorghum grains are larger and have a heartier texture.

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