z8By Elke Probkevitz

Refined grain products are a staple in every household. You would be hard-pressed to find a pantry without a bag of flour and sugar or boxes of pasta. These ingredients are simple and uncomplicated to use. When it comes to whole grains, however, many home cooks are intimidated and not sure how to use them. There are so many benefits for incorporating whole grains and cutting out the processed stuff from your diet. Here is some guidance on how to prep, cook, and optimize your whole grains.

Selection and storage. Choose whole grains depending on how dense you’d like your dish to be. Barley and rice work well for hearty dishes like risotto, while quinoa is a lighter grain and is good in salads. Wheat berries, faro, and spelt are good for dishes with texture. Whole grains are more sensitive to heat and light, so store them in a cool, dark place in a sealed container. If they start to smell oily or sweet, they might have gone rancid and you should discard them.

Preparation. Whole grains generally take longer to cook, so soaking them overnight is a good step to reduce cooking time. Most grains can be prepared as follows: Combine 1 cup of grain with the amount of liquid specified on the package and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook with the lid slightly open to let some steam escape until all the water is absorbed. Allow to sit for a few minutes and then fluff with a fork. Vegetable broth is a great substitute for water to impart flavor to your dish.

Varieties and uses. Quinoa has grown very popular over recent years. It cooks quicker than most whole grains and is high in protein. It is chewy and mildly nutty in flavor, great in stir-fries and salads, and can be used in tabbouli.

Barley is popular in most Jewish homes, used in cholent, but did you know it can be effective in lowering cholesterol? It is filling and can be used in soups, stews, and salads. Risotto can be made using barley instead of the traditional Arborio rice for a more nutritious version. Add your favorite vegetables such as mushrooms, asparagus, or butternut squash to add more flavor and nutrition.

Wheat berries are the whole kernels of the wheat grain. High in fiber, they can be added to soup or chili and can also be used in stir-fries or made into a salad. Make a dressing from citrus juice, vinegar, and olive oil. Add chopped red onion, celery, and almonds for a contrasting crunch.

Bulgur wheat is typically used in tabbouli salads. Cook the bulgur and add chopped tomatoes, onions, parsley, olive oil, lemon, and sea salt. You can buy the instant variety that cooks in five minutes and use in pilaf, salad, or substitute in any rice recipe.

Millet is a great whole grain for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes. You can make porridge with millet instead of the usual oats. Simmer with water, coconut milk, maple syrup, a cinnamon stick, and any other additives you’d use in your oatmeal.

Buckwheat is really a gluten-free seed, not a whole grain. It is high in protein, cooks quickly, and has a nutty flavor. It is used to make soba noodles and kasha using roasted buckwheat. Cook by sautéing onions and adding chicken or vegetable broth and kasha.

Farro is a form of emmer wheat that can be prepared in many ways. It has a great chewy texture and is a great substitute for rice, especially in risotto. v

Green-Bean Salad With Wheat Berries And Barley


1 lb. green beans, trimmed

¼ cup good-quality olive oil

4 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 shallot, finely minced

salt and pepper to taste

½ cup barley, cooked and cooled

½ cup wheat berries, cooked and cooled

3 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped


Place green beans in a pot of water seasoned with salt. Bring to a boil and cook 1—2 minutes. Drain and place in ice bath to stop cooking. Whisk olive oil, vinegar, and shallot together. Season with salt and pepper. Combine barley, wheat berries, and string beans in a bowl. Add dressing and dill and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning before serving.

Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook that you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.

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