Whole Grains with Flavor

They’re not just good for you, they’re good

By Nicole Spiridakis








All grains contain complex carbohydrates and various vitamins and minerals, but unrefined (whole) grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats are an even better source of fiber, selenium, potassium, and magnesium. Here are some quick and easy ways to make a good thing even better.

Use half whole-wheat pastry flour in cake recipes. Also known as graham flour, it works particularly well in chocolate cake or gingerbread; the pastry flour is a finer ground than regular whole-wheat flour, and in recipes with strong flavors you won’t notice a difference.

Use whole-wheat couscous instead of the regular variety. Its rich, nutty flavor is a perfect foil for dishes such as this recipe for white sturgeon with spicy eggplant.

Boost the flavor and consistency of brown rice by making it with a cup of vegetable broth, a teaspoon of olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Make extra and freeze in individual serving sizes for a quick and easy weeknight reheat.

Or, forget the rice altogether and make quinoa. This whole grain is loaded with protein and cooks up quickly, but don’t forget to rinse it first to remove the soapy residue. This Indian Quinoa Salad is a perfect take-to-work lunch.

Go Middle Eastern with bulgur wheat. Dishes such as this Real Tabbouleh, puckery with lemon juice and seasoned with parsley, mint, tomatoes, and shallots, make a simple side dish for meat or fish.

Skip semolina pasta in favor of polenta. Look for whole-ground cornmeal (and keep it refrigerated, to preserve freshness), which can also be used in pancakes, corn tortillas, and cornbread. Drape it with roasted vegetables or a meaty tomato sauce. Chowhounds suggest this “no-stir” version.

Make some crunchy, tiny, mildly flavored millet. It only takes about 15 minutes to steam. You can add it to meatloaf, or cook it in stock, then add mushrooms, garlic, and black pepper for a savory side. Or try a vegetarian main dish of Olive, Tomato, and Millet-Stuffed Zucchini.

Sit down to a bowl of wholesome oats. Whether they’re steel-cut or rolled, you can drizzle them with honey and load them up with dried fruit; for a savory version, sprinkle with salt and douse with milk. Or make Oatmeal-Banana-Raisin Waffles.

Instead of potatoes, try a wild rice pilaf made with vegetable broth instead of water, wilted spinach, and slivered almonds. Wild rice is chewy and earthy on its own, but works well in dishes such as this Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole.

Make a warming barley soup to ease the season’s turn into spring. Most barley is pearled to remove the inedible outer hull and some of the bran, but it is still considered a whole grain.

CHOW’s The Ten column appears every Tuesday.

Nicole Spiridakis contributes to the San Francisco Chronicle and NPR online, as well as other publications, and writes a cooking blog called Cucina Nicolina.

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