On Jan.5 , we brought you a method for making green soup that packs a powerful iron- and vitamin-C punch (and it’s good, too — check the endorsement by Green Scene reporter Susan Andrew in the comments section).
Today, we’re talking about whole grains, inspired in part by a recent feature in Bon Appetit Magazine. The story, “The New Veg,” highlights recipes from Yottam Ottolenghi, a Jerusalem-born chef who wrote Plenty, a vegetarian cookbook that eschews fussy techniques in favor of celebrating the flavor of food. In other words, one of the best ways to enjoy eggplant is to roast it, enhancing the flavor of the fruit, rather than burying it in an avalanche of tomato sauce and cheese. Think you don’t like eggplant? Roast it — deeply — and get back to me.
One of the Ottolenghi recipes included in the Bon Appetit feature highlights eggplant, scored, lightly spiced with cumin, coriander and cinnamon, roasted and served with a bulgur salad and some yogurt. The recipe’s available on the magazine’s website, a generally good resource for the amateur home cook.
The recipe got me thinking how underutilized bulgur wheat actually is. It’s incredibly simple to prepare — pour some boiling water over it, cover with plastic wrap, let steam for about 45 minutes, then add some ingredients to make a salad/side dish/full-on lunch. Tabbouleh is a classic example of what to do with bulgur. Here’s a recipe that we like via Suzy Phillips of Gypsy Queen Cuisine (printed by WNC Magazine). Or, you can add chopped olives, onions, herbs and currants like Ottolenghi does in the recipe. Or, add chopped roasted chicken, baby kale and a nice vinaigrette for a lunch dish.
Why eat whole grains in the first place? They’re high in fiber and iron and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. They also add variety beyond the potato, super-cheap to buy in bulk, keep forever (or close to it) in your pantry for emergencies, and it’s easy to make a lot at once and freeze for later use.
Barley is a great starter grain, and good for much more than soup. It has a great texture that lends itself well to risotto. Lately, I’ve served mushroom-barley risotto, made with rich stock and finished with a little grated manchego cheese and butter, with lamb T-bones and also with venison tenderloin. Cooked and chilled barley also makes a great salad with roasted golden beets or raw apples, green onions and lots of parsley — and feta, if you want.
Farro is also great for risotto and various wintry salads — try it chilled with cubes of roasted butternut squash, for example. It’s also perfect tossed with pesto and a few chopped roasted vegetables and nuts or roasted chicken.
Think it’s impossible to get enough basil in the winter to make pesto without spending a fortune? If so, you may have missed our recent article about Fresh, a hydroponic herb grower located right in the center of downtown Asheville. To reach them and order herbs by the pound at affordable prices, call 254-9917, ext. 311. They even deliver.
Dr. Robert Sweeney of Fresh recently sent us a few recipes for using the herbs the company grows. Included was a recipe for basil pesto:
2 cups firmly packed fresh basil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
2 cloves of garlic
Chop garlic and nuts in blender or food processor. Add basil, continue to chop. Slowly pour in olive oil. Mix in cheese and blend for an additional 15-20 seconds.
Easy. Toss it with your cooked farro. Enjoy.