Saturday, January 31, 2009

Broaden Your Grain Horizons

One day in the local health food store, I noticed many varieties of rice in their bulk section. I bought a little brown basmati rice, because I'd read that it was low glycemic. It was delicious! It has a much more mild flavor than the regular brown rice I've used for years, and I can use brown basmati rice in dishes where I don't want the rice to take over the flavor of the food or with guests not used to brown rice. So, guess what kind of brown rice is in my storage now? I'm willing to pay a little more to get the brown basmati rice, and I've been able to get buckets of brown basmati rice through Walton Feed orders (through Carol M., for those of you in Elk Ridge).

That experience taught me something.... why not go into the health food store and buy a little grain I've never tried before? If we like that grain, then we look for a place to do a bulk order and get that grain much cheaper than at the health food store. Most health food stores have small bags or a bulk section. You can try all kinds of things that might seem exotic to you now.

Incidentally, you CAN cook brown rice in a rice cooker. Rince the rice until clean and then soak it in water for several hours or all day. Put the soaked rice in the rice cooker, add the amount of water you normally would for the same amount of white rice, plus about 3/4 cup additional water. Cover and cook. If your first batch is dry, then adjust the water the next time or add a little more water toward the end of the cooking. If you don't own a rice cooker, cook enough rice for several days and toss the leftovers in the refrigerator or the freezer. I put the cold rice in a vegetable steamer and steam it to warm for the next meal.

Another fun grain you can try is quinoa. This grain comes from the Andes and is one of the "super grains", due to it's high nutrient content. I lived in Bolivia for awhile, where I first used quinoa - a tiny grain, really. I have to say it: there is no "W" sound in quinoa as you read all over the web. It is pronounced "kee-no-ah", not "kin-wah". I think the popular pronunciation is what a non-Spanish speaker thought they were hearing when a Spanish speaker said the word. I've seen quinoa in most health food stores.

Whole wheat couscous is another wonderful thing we always have in our house, having tried it from the health food store. True, it's a pasta, but it offers you a whole new world of fast and easy cooking. For couscous itself, you just add water and salt and stir. For great flavor, we toast the couscous in a frying pan and set it aside. (Sometimes I toast some pine nuts or sliced almonds, too.) I saute onions and garlic in olive oil, add the amount of water for the amount of couscous I want to make, chicken soup base (like bouillon, but better), and a handful of golden raisins. Cook until the raisins are soft and remove from heat. Add the couscous (and nuts if you're using them), stir, and cover. In a few minutes, it's done. This is great with a little extra olive oil drizzled over the top -- a great side dish with chicken.

You won't know what you're missing until you try these and other grains. In a food storage world where wheat rules the day, wouldn't it be nice to get in a little variety to enliven your life?

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