…on good food, questionable judgment, and making life work
Okay, okay. I’ve been known to get judgy at the grocery store. It’s hard for me when I see someone feeding their toddler Coke® from a sippy cup or a baby bottle. I struggle with the logic of a cart full of 20-oz. sodas (or “pop” if you’re me) and frozen taquitos. But those are my hang-ups. And I’m feeling much better now. Hell, I did hard time as a vegetarian (13 years) and a solid two years as a vegan (back in the 90’s, when it wasn’t all that hip to do so.) More recently, I’ve tried the Fuhrman Nutritarian plan, and aside from a soul-scorching lack of salt, it is not terrible. I’m all for anything that doesn’t involve processed foods or Monsanto (though we are hard-pressed to escape the Monsanto monolith.) In fact, I’ve gone so deep into the non-processed rabbit-hole that I want to start breaking down my own sides of beef. And as I’ve mentioned before, I do have a pretty bitchin’ boning knife, and I’d happily add a bone saw and a cleaver to my collection. I just need some butchery lessons. So, there you have it–this is another judgment free zone. If you’re off grains, that’s a-okay with me. We tend to eat plant-forward here, peppered with fried chicken nights or roast beef with mashed potatoes. And I don’t believe it’s going to kill me or give me diabeetus. But I also get pretty tired of brown rice, quinoa, and barley. While writing my last post, I tried to post some links about groats, and found there to be a real lack of comprehensive, comparative information. Allow me to attempt to fill the great groat void… Groats are basically whole grains. I’m no scientist, but I think it means the entire grain is intact. Here are some pictures of the groats that are easiest to find in health food stores or by mail-order:
Think of them as pre-hooch, if that helps. All of these can be fermented into boozy things. Which can be a real plus, if you are like this guy. The basic preparation for all of the above is this:
1. Soak 1 cup of grain in water, overnight. 2. Drain and place in a medium saucpan. Cover with water by an inch or two. 3. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender, 45 min to an hour. 4. Drain any excess water, return to pot and while it is still warm, add a healthy pinch of salt & mix.
It’s essentially the same as cooking beans. So, make a big batch of both on a Sunday and use them through the week. To me, wheat berries, spelt, Kamut, and Farro are interchangeable. They have a nutty, neutral, mild flavor. They are hearty and chewy and do very well in soups. I like to eat them right out of a bowl, drizzled with some olive oil and hot sauce–sambal, sririacha, or zhug. (I’m going to keep linking to the lovely blogger, Sarah Melamed, until she notices me…) Her blog is fantastic, and you should read it.
I also like to use groats in place of rice when I serve curries. I imagine they would be great in pilafs, but I’m going to level with you–I have had zero success in the pilaf realm. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I can poach eggs freehand, so I’m good with the pilaf thing. Wheat berries, spelt, Kamut, and Farro are also very good as sweet or savory breakfast grains. A little yogurt & dried fruit are nice additions, as is a drizzle of honey. Oats are kind of…oaty. I don’t find them off-putting, and if you haven’t adequately labeled your groats, (they all have a very similar appearance) you may wind up using oats by mistake and never know the difference. (I’ve done this.) Rye, on the other hand, has a distinctive rye flavor. I don’t really use rye much, because I’m just not creative/intuitive enough to know what that flavor works with.
Now then, on to buckwheat. I’m putting this in it’s own category. First off, what I am discussing here is roasted buckwheat, also called Kasha. This is my second try at buckwheat. A year or so ago, I bought some plain, unroasted buckwheat. It was horrendous. It
makes its own snot as it cooks is mucilaginous. Oh dear God, it was sooooooo gross.
Kasha cooks a lot faster than the other groats, maybe 10-20 minutes. I gotta be honest with you people, I made a batch of kasha this morning that I was going to eat as a recovery meal after a fairly intense workout. I should have known something was amiss by the smell that was coming out of the pot…oh, the horror. And then I saw the stuff:
I’ve eaten a lot of terrible stuff in my life, but this stuff? One. Bite. Noooooooooooooooope. The other groats have a place in this world–a chewy, filling, inexpensive, nutritious place. Kasha seems like an Iron Curtain hold-over, suitable for those interested in culinary self-flagellation.