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30 Days, 30 Ways: Get to Know Grains

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All throughout January we’re bringing you 30 Days, 30 Ways to Good Health, a series of easy strategies for overall wellness (and because we love food, it’s focuses on the foods and cooking techniques to add into your life instead of what to take away.)  Read on for our latest eat well strategy: get to know grains.

 

Whole grains aren’t just rich in nutrients — they’re packed with flavor, too. From Italian farro to protein-rich quinoa to old-fashioned rolled oats, each grain has a different taste and texture and lends itself to a range of delicious serving suggestions. Toss them into salads and soups, serve as a pilaf or risotto, or shake up your oatmeal routine with a new breakfast cereal. These whole grains can also be ground into flour for baking or making fresh pasta.

 

No matter how you use them, you’ll want to master the best cooking technique for each grain. Here are six basic recipes for cooking some common grains. We promise — brown-bag lunches and weeknight dinners will be easier than ever!

 

Quinoa: Rinse 1 part quinoa with cold water and drain through a fine-mesh sieve. Repeat 3 times, then place in a saucepan. Add 2 parts water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand at least 5 minutes before using.

 

Barley: In a saucepan, bring 4 parts water to a boil. Add 1 part pearl barley and a pinch of salt and simmer until the grains are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain before using.

 

Farro: In a saucepan, combine 1 part rinsed semi-pearled farro with 2 parts water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the grains are tender and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes.

 

Bulgur: In a saucepan, combine 1 part medium-grain bulgur and 2 parts water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the grains are tender, 10-12 minutes.

 

Polenta: In a saucepan, bring 5 parts broth or water to a boil along with a large pinch of salt. Slowly whisk in 1 part coarse polenta. Simmer, stirring often, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan, 20-45 minutes.

 

Brown Rice: In a saucepan, combine 1 part rice, 2 parts water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, 45-60 minutes.

 

Here are a few of our favorite whole grain recipes. For more info on grains, see our guide to grains.

 

Black Quinoa Salad with Lemon, Avocado and PistachiosBlack Quinoa Salad with Lemon, Avocado and Pistachios
This recipe from cookbook author Deborah Madison stars black quinoa, which adds to the drama of the dish. Tossed with greens, fresh herbs, avocado and feta cheese, it makes a gorgeous side or light main course.
Sautéed Scallops and Quinoa with Orange-Avocado SalsaSautéed Scallops and Quinoa with Orange-Avocado Salsa
Quinoa mixed with olive oil and a big handful of fresh herbs makes a refreshing bed for these scallops and lively salsa made from oranges and avocado.
Warm Lamb and Farro Salad with Fennel and PomegranateWarm Lamb and Farro Salad with Fennel and Pomegranate
Tender lamb mixes with earthy farro, sweet pomegranate seeds, aromatic mint and crunchy fennel in this main-course salad.
Farro with Winter Vegetables and WatercressFarro with Winter Vegetables and Watercress
Farro has a nutty crunch that complements soft-roasted root vegetables. Serve this salad warm or at room temperature — it keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge.
Beef with Mushrooms and BarleyBeef with Mushrooms and Barley
Tender chunks of stewed beef, meaty mushrooms and pleasantly chewy, earthy barley create a bowl brimming with texture and flavor. This is a comforting dish for a cold winter night.
Butternut Squash Barley RisottoButternut Squash Barley Risotto
This version of risotto replaces traditional Arborio rice with barley, which helps process cholesterol in the body. The cooking method remains the same so your final dish is still the creamy texture that defines a good risotto.
Bulgur Salad with Roasted Peppers, Chickpeas and PistachiosBulgur Salad with Roasted Peppers, Chickpeas and Pistachios
Nutty bulgur stands up well to the stand up to the hearty beans, nuts and dried fruits in this dish, which is dressed with a vinaigrette of pomegranate molasses and fresh lemon juice.
Wheat Berries with Roasted Parsnips, Butternut Squash and Dried CranberriesWheat Berries with Roasted Parsnips, Butternut Squash and Dried Cranberries
This colorful side dish pairs wheat berries — whole wheat kernels — and roasted root vegetables. Enjoy as a side dish for roasted meats or as a light meal on its own.
Wild Rice & Mushroom PilafWild Rice & Mushroom Pilaf
Wild rice is dense and earthy, so it’s a perfect complement to woodsy wild mushrooms. You’ll love that this dish requires only a handful of ingredients to pull together.
Wild Rice Soup with Porcini and EscaroleWild Rice Soup with Porcini and Escarole
Wild rice takes an Italian-inspired turn in this hearty soup, made with meaty mushrooms, slightly bitter escarole and a touch of rich cream.
Millet MuffinsMillet Muffins
These whole wheat and millet muffins were created by cookbook author and blogger Heidi Swanson. They have a light, airy texture and bright, fresh flavor, thanks to the addition of lemon zest and juice.
Maple-Almond GranolaMaple-Almond Granola
Classic rolled oats form the base of this crunchy fruit-and-nut granola, lightly sweetened with honey and maple syrup. Make a big batch to keep on hand for an easy, wholesome start to the day.
Steel-Cut Oats with Honeyed Pears and Glazed PecansSteel-Cut Oats with Honeyed Pears and Glazed Pecans
Steel-cut oats result in a textured oatmeal, with a deliciously chewy yet tender bite. Top with crunchy sugared pecans and cinnamon-coated pears, and you’ll be in oatmeal heaven.
Barley-Leek Soup with Mini Chicken MeatballsBarley-Leek Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs
This is a great soup to make with kids, who will have fun forming the meatballs and eating the end result. You can make the meatballs in advance and freeze them.
Vegetarian Bibimbap with Crispy Brown RiceVegetarian Bibimbap with Crispy Brown Rice
A traditional Korean rice dish, bibimbap means “mixed rice” and typically includes sautéed vegetables and often a fried egg or meat, plus gochujang, or chili pepper paste. Here, we omit the meat and use brown rice instead of white. Our ginger-garlic stir-fry sauce amps up the flavor of the mushrooms.
Roasted Vegetable and Farro SoupRoasted Vegetable and Farro Soup
This nourishing soup is a specialty from the mountains of northwestern Tuscany. Here, robust dark green, lacinato kale replaces the usual smoked pancetta for a hearty vegetarian version.
Farro with Caramelized Root VegetablesFarro with Caramelized Root Vegetables
In the cool-weather months, toss farro with roasted root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips and carrots, as it is here. This dish is sweet and savory and is delicious served at room temperature, making it a great option for both the lunch box and the salad plate.
Turkey, Kale and Brown Rice SoupTurkey, Kale and Brown Rice Soup
Giada De Laurentiis, who created this hearty delicious soup, says that she lives on it in winter. She starts making it right after Thanksgiving using leftover turkey, and it is one of those dishes she craves when it is cool outside. Also, it’s really pretty, which soups aren’t always.
Farro and Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate VinaigretteFarro and Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Here’s a double dose of healthy grains! This salad is packed with nutrient-dense foods, with additions of celery and fennel for a delicious crunch.
Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Vegetables and QuinoaMoroccan-Spiced Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa
Moroccan spices, such as cumin, turmeric and cinnamon, help to make this a delicious and aromatic meal. Dried fruit and nuts are common in Moroccan-style dishes, and lend sweetness and texture.
Warm Farro Salad with Butternut Squash and HazelnutsWarm Farro Salad with Butternut Squash and Hazelnuts
Combining whole-grain farro with chunks of butternut squash, crunchy hazelnuts and dried cranberries, this salad is not only beautiful, it’s also packed with nutrients.
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