Going With the Grain
Old world whole grains take center stage on new world dinner tables
Life / 8 Feb 2013
Quinoa, once revered as a nutritional powerhouse among conscious eaters, is now the subject of questionable ethics claims. While it’s yet to have sunk to HFCS-levels of denouncement, it has already become a target for mockery. Consequently, a new field of ancient grains is sprouting, as diners look to diversify their fiber selection.
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Freekeh
: Freekeh boasts not only the most pun-ready grain name but also a most pleasing flavor profile. Roasted green wheat that’s characterized by a distinctly nutty flavor, the Middle Eastern cereal is being contemporized for modern chefs and diners. Brands such as Freekeh Foods and Cayuga Pure Organics are marketing the protein-rich superfood as a versatile pantry staple. Meanwhile, restaurants from coast to coast are putting it on the menu. In LA, Silverlake’s Sqirl Cafe prepares it with pickled blueberries, chanterelles and goat cheese, and in NYC, Birdbath is feeding the Flatiron lunch crowd with freekeh burgers.
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Teff
: During the past few decades, Ethiopia has been better known for its hunger problem than it has for its traditional foods. Interestingly, just as its (still persistent) poverty rates have begun to decline, its sorely overlooked cuisine is finally enjoying attention in the US. Thus, more diners than ever are discovering teff, the whole grain derived from ancient North African lovegrass that is the anchor of Ethiopian fare. Made from finely ground teff flour, injera is a deliciously spongy, yeast-risen flatbread that’s used in lieu of utensils. This is one carb that celiac sufferers can indulge in without worry.
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Farro
: Health-conscious fans of Italian food, having already swapped out vilified semolina flour pasta for its whole wheat equivalent, are now starting to trade the traditional arborio rice used in risotto for more nutritious whole grain alternatives. Topping the list is rustic farro, the oldest cultivated grain in the world (it served mainly as peasant food during the Roman Empire). Indeed, farro is undergoing a culinary renaissance as chefs realize the toothsome potential of the quick-cooking staple, even if its make-up remains a mysterious matter. Chewy without being gummy, properly cooked farro retains risotto’s creamy quality while maintaining its characteristic earthy bite.
©The Intelligence Group