Quinoa? Brown rice? Couscous? Sign me up!
One of my favorite ways to add to a meal is using grains. I know we live in something of a carb-fearing time, but grains — real, whole grains, with a history and flavor to ’em beyond being overbleached and stripped of all nutrients — are so much more than just “carbs.” They can be the basis of an entire meal.
For real? For real! Take quinoa, for example. Quinoa’s probably the “hippest” grain around right now, mostly due to its omnipresence on Pinterest and all health-food outlets known to man. Quinoa is an ancient Native American grain with loads of protein, a nutty flavor, and a soft “bite” to its texture. For those watching their gluten intake, it’s gluten-free. For those watching their tasty-intake, it’s a killer addition to many a meal. For example:
- Whip up some quinoa oatmeal for breakfast — a protein-rich “cereal” with warmth and flavor.
- Replace the bulgur usually found in tabbouleh with quinoa. The earthiness of quinoa’s flavor pairs nicely with the tomatoes, parsley, lemon and other tabbouleh flavors.
- Mix with chick peas, chopped tomatoes, quick-sauteed veggies (asparagus? Broccoli? Green beans?), Parmesan, and a dressing of Olive Oil & Balsamic vinegar to create an Italian Quinoa Bowl. So, so good. Surprisingly hearty and crazy-delicious. (Not as “crazy-delicious” as Mr. Pibb + Red Vines, but a lady can dream.)
- Try cooked quinoa as a replacement for breadcrumbs in a recipe for turkey meatloaf, like this one from Food.com. The dense, protein-rich loaf will keep you full for hours. Great for a leftover lunch on a long work day.
- Mix sauteed onions & peppers, black beans, and quinoa, top with avocado, sour cream, lime juice and shredded cheese, and voila! You have a delicious vegetarian taco filling to serve over tortillas. Nom nom nom!
Here are a few of my other favorite grains, and some suggested recipes or uses for them. Some are pretty straightforward, and others could be a surprise. Expect the unexpected! And as the wisest woman I ever “knew,” Ms. Frizzle, once said, “Take chances! Make mistakes!”
- Couscous: A workhorse that cooks in almost no time at all, couscous is delicious when prepared with chicken broth instead of water. Use it as a base for a sauteed and seasoned (S&P + chili powder + cumin) mixture of sweet potatoes, red peppers & black beans. It’s also excellent as a base for stir-fry, or — surprisingly — in salads, like this Summer Garden salad from the wise folks at Taste of Home.
- Brown Rice: I recently used brown rice — a great base for almost any meal, from soups to stir-fry — as a binding ingredient in homemade Black Bean Burgers. Combine mashed black beans, brown rice, a tbsp of mayo, and spices / herbs to your liking. Mash into a patty, grill over medium heat, and serve on a bun! Brown rice can even show up in pancakes, like this recipe from Simply Cooked.
- Farro is another ancient grain with a rich history and even richer flavor. Try farro in dishes like Farro & Butternut Squash from 100 Cookbooks; Giada DeLaurentiis’ Farro Salad with Tomatoes; or even in a risotto.
- Bulgur: The original basis for a classic tabbouleh, bulgur’s uses are as limited as your imagination. Try this quick-cooking grain in dishes like Ellie Krieger’s Herbed Bulgur-Lentil Pilaf. Nom nom nom!
What are your favorite grains? Are you big fans of basmati rice? How about jamming with jasmine rice? Minnesota wild rice-lovers out there? What else do you use to stock your pantry with grainy goodness?