Whole Grains Can Be Sexy, Too
Sure, you probably already know about quinoa, brown rice, and barley, but have you heard of hato mugi, rye berries, or triticale? Probably not. Discovering new whole grains can be an exciting epicurean experience, just like perusing the produce stands at the farmers market. Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, the chef-writer team with 21 cookbooks under their belt, have taken on a new sort of challenge that's a departure from their past work.
"Let the backyard boys have their whole pigs in pits," say Weinstein and Scarbrough, because this time, they're up for a new challenge. With their latest cookbook, Grain Mains, they aim to make the world of whole grains just as appealing and exciting as the tempting (but pricey) treats at the meat counter. Besides that, cooking whole grains, although potentially time-consuming, is bound to be a lot easier than roasting a pig on a spit.
Weinstein and Scarbrough point out, rightly perhaps, that the main turn-offs for a lot of people when it comes to whole grains are their extended cooking times and the knee-jerk focus on their health benefits. Yes, they're full of fiber; yes, they're good for digestion; and yes, they're full of vitamins and minerals. But what about the way they taste? Whole grains (or rather, culinary whole grains as Weinstein and Scarbrough call them, since every whole grain except for corn requires some level of processing to be edible) encapsulate a complex mix of flavors that are just waiting to be unlocked with the right cooking method and the right cast of supporting ingredients. So to make them appealing, Weinstein and Scarbrough have chosen to focus on the culinary aspect of whole grains; you should be eating them, in other words, for the way the way they taste, not just the fact that they're good for you. Or as they put it, "Let's assume their pharmacopeia status — and move on."
In answer to the other objection — extended cooking times — Weinstein and Scarbrough have laid out their book in such a way that you can pick a recipe that involves whipping up a large batch of a particular grain on the weekend — say a nice wheat berry salad — that can be stored and turned into meals later on in the week. In fact, all of the dishes in their cookbook are meant to showcase whole grains as the star of the dish; they're all meant as main courses, not side dishes to be forgotten. Each recipe is accompanied by numerous helpful tips aimed at saving time, making shopping easier, breaking up the dish into manageable components, jazzing it up, and turning it vegetarian or vegan without compromising flavor. They also offer some good information in the beginning of the book on the various whole grains mentioned throughout the pages, in case you haven't encountered them before and don't know where to find them, what they taste like, or how to cook with them.
So there's really not much of an excuse not to give whole grains a try. Weinstein and Scarbrough sum up the mission of their book neatly: "You can embrace the widest range of flavors in the supermarket and the roots of human civilization. All without thinking about your colon."
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Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.