Whole grains are ideal foods to add to your lunches. Healthy and versatile, a small portion of grain can help fill you up and leave you satiated. They can be tossed with vegetables to make a pilaf, added by the handful to soups, or mixed in to salads to add texture and flavor.
While most people are used to using only a handful of grains (or perhaps even just rice), there are so many options in a range of flavors and textures. Try adding one of these five toothsome grains to add new dimension to your mid-day meal.
A type of grain originally from the Middle East, made by cooking wheatberries, drying them out, and cracking off the bran. It’s the main ingredient in Tabbouleh, a middle eastern salad with tomatoes and parsley. Bulgur cooks quickly in under 20 minutes – either soaking in boiling water or simmering.
(Photo: Enlightened Cooking)
Millet is a staple grain in India, although it is eaten all over asia and even in some areas of eastern Europe. It is commonly served as a porridge, but lends itself well to curries, and served with beans and squashes. It is best cooked by toasting the grains lightly, and simmering with a liquid for 35 minutes or so.
Not a true grain, Quinoa is technically a member of the grass family, very high in protein. It was historically eaten by the Incas, and is widely used in South America, particularly Peru. It’s taste is slightly nutty, and can be used in place of rice. It tastes particularly delicious with fruit and nuts as a breakfast grain. To cook, rinse quinoa well (to remove the saponins – natural plant defense – which cause bitterness), and cook for about 15-18 minutes.
Buckwheat is a grain most commonly used in Eastern Europe (the ingredient in Kasha – a pasta dish with buckwheat and onions) as well as in Asian cuisine as the main ingredient in Soba noodles. It is also commonly ground into a flour, and used (for example) in pancakes. It is nutty in flavor, and cooks in 15-20 minutes.
Ready to start cooking? Here are a few cookbooks filled with useful grain recipes to help get you started.
Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living – for quick weekday meals, with very simple ingredients and ideas for experimentation and substitution based on what you have in your pantry.
Lorna Sass’s Whole Grains for Busy People: Fast, Flavor-Packed Meals and More for Everyone – For quick, everyday recipes based on whole grains in a variety of different preparations and flavor profiles.
And a few more ideas on the subject over at The Second Lunch: