30 Mar Go with the grain for double dose of nutrition, flavor
Having spent summers growing up on our family’s wheat ranch north of Great Falls, you’d think a girl like me would be a bona fide grain guru. The truth is, my dad and older brother specialize in growing wheat, spring wheat and winter wheat.
But buckwheat, millet and quinoa? Surprisingly, I never encountered any of them until much later in life.
Come to find out, there’s a whole world beyond wheat and a huge variety of healthy whole grains out there. Getting to know great grains other than wheat can be a godsend for people avoiding gluten in their diets, seeking alternative forms of protein or focusing on a plant-based diet.
Whole grains, by nature, are more healthful than refined grains because they are left whole and still contain valuable nutrients stored in the bran and germ of the grain, parts removed when processing.
A rich source of fiber and complex carbohydrates that are low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals, whole grains provide an essential part of a healthy diet. A handful of healthy whole grains you may want to get to know might include buckwheat, bulgur, millet and quinoa.
Buckwheat is actually the seed of a fruit and not a grain at all. The dark flour milled from buckwheat is used to make soba noodles in Japan, buckwheat blinis in Russia and thin buckwheat crepes called Breton galettes in France. Buckwheat can be malted and made into gluten-free beer as well.
Delivering beneficial omega-3 fats and B vitamins without gluten, buckwheat may be destined for superfood star status.
Bulgur, whole wheat which has been parboiled, is a nutritious, versatile wheat product high in fiber, B vitamins, iron, phosphorus and manganese. Bulgur wheat can be used in pilafs, soups, baked goods and stuffing. Traditionally, bulgur has been used in Middle Eastern dishes such as tabbouleh salad and kibbeh.
One of the oldest foods known to humans, millet was used to make bread back in the Biblical times. While millet has been grown in the United States since 1875, it was not until recently that its applications as a human food source have been explored. Millet comes in a variety of colors. You may have seen these tiny round seeds in birdseed mix. More popular all the time, the round yellow millet seeds are used in cereals, soups and dense wholegrain bread.
Quinoa, pronounced keenwa, is a high-quality complete protein commonly cooked and served as a side dish or in salads. It’s a healthy whole grain substitute for rice or couscous. Quinoa flakes are now readily available and can be prepared like oatmeal and served as a hot breakfast, providing essential nutrients such as manganese, phosphorous, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, zinc and copper.
While most grocery stores stock buckwheat flour in their baking aisles, other alternative grains can be harder to locate.
Here in Great Falls, 2Js is a great place to find bulgur, millet and quinoa flakes, as well as other wholegrain products you might want to try.
Here for you is my Special of Day with recipes for Mediterranean Medley of Grains Salad with Grilled Vegetables for lunch and Buckwheat Crepes Florentine with Sauteed Baby Broccoli for dinner.
MEDITERRANEAN MEDLEY OF GRAINS AND GRILLED VEGETABLE SALAD
½ cup wild rice, rinsed
½ cup millet
½ cup bulgur
Juice of one lemon
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
2 cups cherry tomatoes
½ cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Fill a two-quart saucepan three-quarters full of water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add wild rice and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.
Add millet and cook for an additional 10 minutes, adding water to cover if necessary.
Add bulgur and cook for an additional eight minutes, adding water to cover if necessary.
Remove from heat and cover. Allow to cool and absorb all liquid. Refrigerate until ready to make salad.
Make the dressing.
In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
Pour dressing over cooked grains and stir to combine.
Grill the vegetables.
Heat a barbecue to medium high heat. Brush a grill basket with olive oil and set on barbecue to heat.
Slice zucchini and squash in ½-inch thick rounds. Brush zucchini, squash and tomatoes with olive oil. Grill zucchini and squash slices in preheated grill, turning to cook both sides.
Grill cherry tomatoes in grill basket, turning once.
Remove grilled vegetables from grill, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper and let cool briefly.
Cut zucchini and squash into small strips. Add grilled vegetables and basil to mixed grain salad and toss.
Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
½ cup olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
3 tbsp. melted butter, cooled
¾ cup buckwheat flour (2Js)
Dash of salt
In a medium saute pan over medium high heat, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until hot. Add baby broccoli and saute briefly until slightly tender. Remove from pan and set aside.
Make the Florentine sauce.
Add ¼ cup olive oil to pan and heat until hot. Add chopped spinach leaves and garlic. Reduce heat to low and wilt spinach, stirring constantly. This takes only a minute. Add cream and simmer to reduce.
When sauce is thickened, add Parmesan and stir to melt. Keep warm.
Make the buckwheat crepes.
In the blender, combine milk, eggs, melted butter, buckwheat flour and salt. Blend thoroughly. Check consistency.
Add a tablespoon or two more buckwheat flour if it appears too thin. Let batter sit briefly.
Heat a small crepe pan (or small nonstick saucepan) over medium high heat. Brush with melted butter. Carefully pour 2 to 3 tablespoons crepe batter into pan, swirling pan to cover the bottom of the pan.
Let cook until edges begin to brown lightly, about 15 seconds. Using a table knife, lift edge of crepe and flip it.
Cook other side for an additional 15 seconds. Remove from pan and cool, placing sheets of waxed paper in between crepes to prevent sticking. Repeat with remaining batter.
To serve, place crepes on work surface.
Arrange two to three stalks of sauteed baby broccoli in center of each crepe. Top with Florentine sauce, reserving half of the sauce. Roll crepes and place seam side down on plates.
Top crepes with additional Florentine sauce and shaved parmesan cheese. Serves eight.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at email@example.com.