It’s amazing how healthy and tasty often go hand in hand. Case in point, grain recipes. Grains of all kinds are incredibly healthy for you – they’re chock full of fibre and loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. That’s all beside the point if you don’t make them part of your diet or you see them as too “earnest” or even, heavens! stodgy.
Grains come in many forms and adapt to an encyclopedic array of flavours. I’ve paired the chewy, nutty goodness of farro, an Italian ancient grain, with roasted sweet vegetables and an acidic vinaigrette for a great side dish. I have found that if you get pearled farro, you can omit the overnight soak. That way, it only takes about 25 minutes for farro to cook. Pesto is a lovely, delicious coating for wheatberries, barley and Israeli couscous. You can eat the salad as is or add some cooked chicken to it for a main dish. And lastly, quinoa cakes – great for breakfast with fruit and yogurt, terrific topped with salsa or even wonderful as a “hamburger” with regular condiments. Here’s to a whole new way with grains!!
FARRO WITH ROASTED CAULIFLOWER, CARROTS AND CHERRY TOMATOES
Farro, an Italian ancient grain, retains its chewiness and nuttiness when cooked. It can be made up to 24 hours in advance and is great hot, warm or at room temperature. Try to buy pearled farro to avoid an overnight soak.
1 small head cauliflower, cut into 1-in. pieces (about 6 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
1cup cherry tomatoes
1cup semi-pearled farro
1tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with 0aluminum foil.
In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower and carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper until well coated. Spread onto prepared baking sheet. Roast in the centre of the preheated oven for 35 minutes, stirring once or twice. Stir in cherry tomatoes. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are very tender and lightly browned.
Meanwhile, bring 2-1/2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Stir in farro. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes or until farro is tender but still chewy. Drain well. Gently toss together farro and vegetables in a serving bowl.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together vinegar, honey, thyme, salt and pepper. In a thin steady stream, gradually whisk in the olive oil. Pour dressing over farro mixing, tossing gently until well coated. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.
GRAIN SALAD WITH BASIL SAGE PESTO
The combination of grains is up to you but this medley is terrific – the wheatberries add an earthy, crunchy note, the barley a wholesomeness and the couscous an incredible comforting note.
2/3 cup wheatberries
1/4 cup pearled barley
1/2cup Israeli couscous
1 ripe avocado, diced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cucumber
1/4 cup diced red onion
1-1/2 cups packed fresh basil
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/3 cup packed fresh sage
2 large cloves garlic, cut in half
3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add wheatberries and barley. Boil for 40 minutes. Add couscous; cook for 20 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, add basil, almonds, sage, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade. Process until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the olive oil through the feed tube, processing until fully combined. Transfer to bowl. Stir in salt and pepper and Parmesan, if using.
Transfer wheatberry mixture to a serving bowl. Toss gently with pesto, avocado, cucumber and red onion. Makes 8 servings.
Great on their own as a side dish, these cakes need a bit of dressing up, in the form of some salsa, gravy or topping. They are incredibly easy to make and freeze exceptionally well.
1 cup raw quinoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. each dried oregano and dried basil
1/4 tsp. pepper
Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Combine with 2 cups water in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 to 18 minutes or until tender and water is absorbed. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in salt, paprika, oregano, basil, pepper and eggs, mixing well.
Heat about 1/8-in. of oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup or scoop, scoop out quinoa mixture. Gently “plop” into skillet; flatten into a 1/4-in. cake. Repeat with remaining quinoa, making sure not to crowd the pan – you should be able to fry about 6 cakes at once. Cook cakes for 3 minutes per side or until golden. Makes 12 cakes.