This post has been very late coming – I guess I wasn’t as excited about whole grains as I was about pasta. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy day 7 of the Serious Foodie Course, which was all about cooking grains, but how excited can one really get for grains?
This class moved away from the classic cooking that we had been doing and turned its focus towards healthy eating and a practice of balancing your foods according to a yin/yang theory. Whole grains, along with veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes, are all thought to balance out the yin (sugars, fruits, dairy) and the yang (meat, salt, eggs). I do believe there is some truth in this method but believe what you will.
We were taught that there are four different ways of cooking grains; the pasta method, the steam method, the pilaf method and the risotto method. The pasta method is for cooking hardy whole grains such as rice, wheat berries, and barley. It is quite simply simmering the grains in a lot of salted water until soft (just like you would pasta). The steam method involves using the right amount of water for the grain to absorb it completely and cook. This is the method I use for quinoa. The pilaf method starts by sautéing the grain in oil or butter with some mirepoix, liquid is then added before the steam method finishes it off. Finally, the risotto method is ideal for Arborio rice and barley. By slowly adding liquid and constantly stirring, the end result is a saucy consistency.
We started our meal with a bowl of miso soup, which Chef Tony swears is a magical balancing food. Personally, I’m not a big fan of miso. I find it quite bland; however, with the addition of shiitakes, garlic, and ginger, this miso had a bit more flavour. I’m still not converted but it was pretty good and very quick to make.
Next up was the quinoa salad. I really enjoyed this and I felt extremely healthy eating it. How could I not? It was chock-full of quinoa, brown rice, beet, jicama, carrot, cucumber, radish, apple, and finished with some nuts. Yum!
Smoked salmon and barley-quinoa risotto was the next dish and this was absolutely delicious. I hadn’t really given much thought to making risotto the “cheats” way (pre-cooking the grains) but this shaved off about 40 minutes of cooking time and the result was a creamy (yet no cream was added) risotto.
And finally we had the nutrient-bursting stir-fry, full of kale, mushrooms, peppers, brown rice, quinoa and Kamut. This also had a great flavour, due mostly to the home-made sauce that we cooked it in.
Helpful tips that I learnt from Day 7:
- Miso paste is a grain (how did I not know this?). Try to buy whole grain miso.
- Seaweed is high in calcium. When cooking with seaweed, do not use a lot of heat. Heat will kill the nutritional content.
- Soaking grains overnight initiates germination which aids digestion.
- Choose one night a week to cook all your grains at once, cool them, and store them in sealed containers in the fridge for up to one week. This makes meal preparation much, much faster.
- When using the pasta method to cook grains, retain the cooking water and use it for broth. It has a lot of flavour and nutrients.