Go with the grain for double dose of nutrition, flavor

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.

Serves eight.

Buckwheat Crepes Florentine with Sauteed Baby Broccoli

 6-ounce package baby broc­coli, trimmed
  1 cup (packed) baby spinach leaves, chopped

 ½ cup olive oil, divided

 2 cloves garlic, minced

 1 cup heavy cream

 ½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese

 1 cup milk

 3 eggs

 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 sydnegeorge@hot­mail.com.

  • Danielle Anderson
    Posted at 14:07h, 30 March Reply

    Sydne! What a great and informative article and the recipes look fabulous! I can’t wait to try them. My sister-in-law makes a great greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, kalamata olives and feta. She adds quinoa and it is absolutely delicious! Your photo of the crepes is making me so hungry.

    • Sydne George
      Posted at 14:11h, 30 March Reply

      Thanks, Danielle.
      So nice of you to stop by and comment.
      Have a great day!

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