Thursday, September 3, 2009
If you ask me, the united states is too hung up on this carbohydrate-phobia. While I do think its true that we are WAY too ependdent on white flour and white sugar, I also know from one my absolute most enriching college courses, NUTRITION, that carbohydrates are a necessary part of a balanced diet. Observe the food pyramid. Do you see grains in a tiny box in the corner? NO they are the axis, on which our diet should spin. Nope, not meat, not fish, not even fruits and vegetables.
However, while I love white flour, and white sugar, I have discovered that grains and sugars in their pure and whole forms are absolutely inspiring, and if prepared properly can be the most delicious and enriching part of a meal.
I will be posting recipes involving these grains so i would like to say some words about the favorites. I may throw a bean or two in here as well....
Semolina/couscous/Farina: Found in course and fine grains. fine grains make the best fresh pasta, flat breads. This is a wheat flour, made from durham wheat. Its flavor is slightly richer than what we consider regular flour. it has a slight toasted corn flavor.... its texture is more grainy and less powdery than white flour, and binds differently when kneaded. course grains are used for cereal and for cookies most often.
Bulgar. This is cracked wheat and is used commonly in middle eastern inspired cooking, including Kibbeh and Tabouli from lebanon, the most commonly known recipes. its a course grain and needs to be soaked before cooking.
Steel Cut Oats. most oats we know are the rolled, flat kind, instant or otherwise. Thats unfortunate. steel cut oats are cut, not rolled. they are completely different. they are chewy and dense when cooked. i like to toast them dry in a pan before adding the water. they can be cooked just like oatmeal, only longer and with more water. 3 cups water to one cup oats. I like mine with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, honey, and a small amount of raisins and chopped dates.
Polenta, or Corn meal I love corn meal, I know there is a new corn phobia going around too, and while i dont like corn syrup in everything, corn itself is wonderful. polenta is a course corn meal and can be used as a cereal (grits), cookies, cakes, breads, and so many other things. grits congeal when they cool and can be fried or baked in squares for a snack. they go great with cheese and green chiles.
Masa Harina Corn flour. used for corn tortillas, empanadas, tamales, breads and more. a fresh corn tortilla is something special. Its hard to go back to store bought afterward..
Chickpeas. everyone knows about hummus and falafel. there are other applications for chickpeas but these are the best. I recently discovered fresh chickpeas and they have become one of my favorite sides (however they are a big giant pain to hull, and can take up to an hour for just a little pile. make sure you do it in front of the tv or with company...) just boil for ten minutes, drain, and add a pat of butter....
Lentils. THE best pulse there is. comes in a rainbow of colors. i like the green ones for texture. soups and patties are where you will see these. sausage and spices are the best compliments.
Quinoa. this is a very different grain with a very different flavor. you either love it or you hate it. i cant explain. its cheap, just try it.
purchase whole grains in bulk. i dont mean large amounts, i mean from bins. you will spend almost nothing and get a lot. for example, bulgar is 1.20 a pound in bulk, 3.99 for 12 oz in a shiny box with colorful words and a fancy foriegn name. what do YOU want to apy for?