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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Rice/Beans/Grains/Seeds

RECIPE: Tofu & Tomato Skewers

tofu-tomato-skewers-nutrition.org-230

Tasty tofu and tomato skewers. Photo
courtesy Nutrition.org.

 

We love mozzarella and tomatoes. Caprese salad is a favorite, along with skewers of mozarella balls with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves.

But we’re also trying to eat more vegan dishes, part of our personal commitment to save the planet. (Animal methane is the leading cause of greenhouse gas.) You’d be surprised how delicious a tofu substitution can be. Try this easy recipe from House Foods, which adds a bright herb sauce for dipping.

RECIPE: TOFU & TOMATO SKEWERS WITH HERB SAUCE

Ingredients For 10 Skewers

  • 1 package extra firm or super firm tofu
  • 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 10 bamboo skewers
  •  

    For The Herb Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large shallot
  • ½ bundle Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • ½ bundle cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grounded black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  •  

    Preparation

    1. WRAP tofu with paper towel and place on plate. Microwave for a minute to remove excess moisture.

    2. PLACE garlic and shallot in a food processor and give it a quick whirl. Add parsley, cilantro and give it another whirl.

    3. COMBINE chopped herbs and add vinegar, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and olive oil in a bowl.

    4. CUT tofu in cubes in the same size as the cherry tomatoes. Place two tofu cubes and two tomatoes alternately on skewers. Brush tofu with the sauce and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Brush a couple more times until grill mark is shown. Brush tofu again before serving.

    5. SERVE with herb sauce.

     

    House-Foods-Extra-Firm-Tofu-230

    Use only extra firm tofu so the cubes will hold their shape. Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    You can also make tofu Caprese salad.

    Tofu is made in a variety of firmness levels, ranging from soft to extra firm, depending on the use. Desserts and smoothies, for example, use soft tofu; grilling requires extra-firm tofu, the texture of which is similar to meat.

    House Foods’ line of Premium Tofu products that are made with non-genetically modified (non-GMO) soybeans grown in the U.S. See all of the products at House-Foods.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lettuce Cups or Wraps

    tofu-lettuce-cups-230

    Lettuce cups: Fill them with something warm
    for a contrast with the cool, crunchy lettuce.
    Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    First introduced in Asian cuisines, lettuce wraps are now popping up on the menus of other types of restaurants and on the dinner table at home. We’ve really been enjoying this lettuce cups recipe as a light lunch or dinner.

    Sent to us by House Foods America from an original recipe by Mutsumi Gonzales, it’s a vegan recipe that we tried in celebration of Earth Month.

    But you can substitute the cubed protein of your choice—beef, chicken, pork, seafood—for the tofu.

    RECIPE: TOFU LETTUCE CUPS

    Ingredients

  • Crisp lettuce leaves
  • ½ package (7 ounces) firm tofu, drained well and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Garnishes: shredded carrots, chopped cilantro
  •  
    For The Sauce

  • 1-½ tablespoon miso (red or awase)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1-½ tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sake
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ teaspoon corn starch mixed with ¼ cup cold water
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT olive oil, garlic and tofu in a frying pan over moderately high heat. Cook until tofu and garlic are well toasted.

    2. ADD all the sauce ingredients and continue cooking for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and cornstarch mixture, stirring until the mixture thickens. Mix in walnuts.

    3. PLACE the warm mixture on lettuce cups, garnish with shredded carrots and chopped cilantro, and serve.

     

    LETTUCE CUPS & WRAPS

    Lettuce cups and wraps are very easy to make. The cups are just that—a base of lettuce topped with the filling.

    Wraps put the filling inside lettuce leaves and roll them up.

    You can fill them with an almost endless array of ingredient. Start with the ones that you use in burritos, pita, sandwiches, spring rolls or tortillas.

    The contrast of warm, flavorful fillings with the cool crunch of lettuce is a crowd pleaser and a calorie saver.
     
    HOW TO MAKE LETTUCE CUPS

    Use large, pliable lettuce leaves. Iceberg is most often used, but escarole, red leaf lettuce, radicchio, romaine or large spinach leaves are options. Wash and dry lettuce thoroughly.

    Here’s a demonstration.

     

    house-foods-firm-tofu-pkg_230

    House Foods Premium or Organic Tofu Firm.

     

    To keep iceberg lettuce crisp, cut the core out. Fill the core with cold tap water, then drain for 15 minutes. It will stay crisp for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

    For a party, offer a variety of lettuces and fillings.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Leftover Cooked Grains

    quinoa-pudding-chobani-230

    Turn leftover quinoa or other grain into a
    breakfast parfait. Photo courtesy Chobani.

     

    Barley, buckwheat, bulgur, rice, quinoa….

    You’re doing your best to eat more whole grains and up your daily fiber content.

    But if you’re staring down a bowl of leftover grains in the fridge, here’s how to repurpose it. Although it isn’t a whole grain, include white rice on this list (since many of us have lots of leftover white rice from Chinese takeout). We haven’t included oatmeal because its cooked consistency has limitations; but you can find ways below to use it.

    UNSEASONED GRAINS

  • Breakfast Or Lunch Parfait: Sweeten the grains lightly and create a parfait with yogurt and fruit.
  • Omelet or Scrambled Eggs: Just fold the grains in.
  • Porridge: Reheat grains in a bowl and serve with milk, sweetener of choice and optional fruit and/or nuts.
  • Rice Pudding Substitute: Place the grains in a bowl and moisten with whole milk or nonfat milk (enough to wet the rice but not to create a pool of excess liquid). Add a teaspoon of your favorite sweetener and optional raisins or chopped dried fruit, plus cinnamon and nutmeg. Microwave for 30 seconds or enjoy cold.
  •  
    SEASONED GRAINS

  • Burritos, Stuffed Peppers, Wraps: Toss ‘em in.
  • Fried Rice/Fried Rice Substitute: Heat oil in a saucepan; add rice or other grains, diced onions or green onions, minced garlic and soy sauce. Add diced bell pepper, carrots and any leftover meat, poultry seafood or tofu. If you have sesame oil, add a teaspoon to the primary cooking oil.
  • Grain Salad: Mix with diced chopped onions, bell peppers and other favorite vegetables, fresh parsley and any leftover protein. Use olive oil to bind. You can also use this filling to make stuffed tomatoes and stuffed peppers.
  • Green Salad: Toss seasoned grains in with your salad or use as a garnish.
  • Mac & Cheese Substitute: Mix grains with shredded, grated or chopped cheese and put in the microwave for 30 sections. Season with fresh parsley, chopped green onions or red pepper flakes. Enjoy it as a quick snack or a side dish; it’s great comfort food.
  • Meatballs or Stuffed Cabbage: In the meatballs, substitute grains for breadcrumbs; in stuffed cabbage, substitute other grains for the rice.
  • Polenta Or Hash Browns Substitute: Use the grains to create a version of these popular sides. Combine the leftover grains with any other ingredients that appeal to you (green onions, sesame seeds, whatever), press into a frying pan and fry.
  • Side: Add more ingredients to make yesterday’s side look different. Beans, corn, dried fruit, green onions, peas, nuts, and so forth can make the dish look new. Also look at a different flavor enhancement: Dijon mustard, horseradish, sesame oil and so forth.
  • Soup: Using a cookie dough scoop, ice cream scoop or tablespoon and place a mound in the center of a bowl of soup—hot or chilled (like gazpacho).
  •  
    Other ideas? Let us know!

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pacific Foods Organic Beans

    Proust had his madeleines; we had our mother’s baked beans: made in an old-fashioned glazed ceramic crock, topped with strips of bacon. They were so good, we have never been able to eat canned baked beans—overly sweetened and one-dimensionally bland.

    But thanks to Pacific Natural Foods’ new line of USDA Certified Organic beans in a carton, we now enjoy baked and refried beans at home as often as we like.

    With January 1st the day to make resolutions to eat better, they’re a logical Top Pick Of The Week to usher in the new year. Rich in plant-based protein (Pacific beans have up to seven grams of protein per serving) and fiber, beans are a better-for-you food.

    The line debuted last spring at Whole Foods Markets nationwide and expanded to select natural food stores and grocery chains. You can taste the quality and slow-cooked flavor and texture of the baked beans—the closest we’ll get to Mom’s (especially when we add crispy strips of bacon across the top).

     

    Baked beans with a garnish of bacon. Photo © Viktor | Fotolia.

     
    The refried beans are better than what we get most Mexican restaurants. Varieties include:

  • Organic Refried Pinto Beans (vegetarian or non-vegetarian [with added pork fat])
  • Organic Refried Black Beans (vegetarian)
  • Organic Refried Black Beans with Green Chiles (vegetarian)
  • Organic Baked Beans (vegetarian or with pork—but the pork amounts to a few tough bits)
  •  
    A bonus for those who are concerned about the BPA plastic lining of tin cans: the Pacific Natural Foods cartons have no such potential problem. They’re priced at $2.69 to $2.99 for a 13.6-ounce container.

     

    One of six varieties of baked and refried
    beans. Photo courtesy Pacific Natural Foods.

     

    HOW TO SERVE BAKED BEANS

    Franks and beans are a natural part of the American diet. But even better than that is your own version of “pork and beans.” Instead of the meager bits of pork fat tossed into cans of beans, make your own with leftover roast ham.

    Especially brought to live with a garnish of fresh herbs. We prefer basil, chives, cilantro or parsley.

    BAKED BEANS FOR BREAKFAST

  • With eggs any style: try them on a toasted English muffin, topped with a poached egg
  • On toast: on toasted or grilled baguette or rustic bread, with fresh herbs and optional shredded Gruyère (for breakfast or a light lunch)
  •  
    BAKED BEANS FOR DINNER

  • With sausages or roasted meats: chicken, duck, ham, pork
  • With hearty grilled fish: we like cod atop a bed of beans
  •  

  • With potatoes: In a baked potato or a nest of mashed potatoes (top with shredded cheese and fresh herbs
  • As a side: with a crisp bacon garnish, a garnish of sour cream and a square of corn bread or gratinée
  • Wildcard: on pizza, mixed with elbow macaroni or other short cut (a great way to expand a limited amount of leftovers), to thicken creamy soups
  •  
    WAYS TO SERVE REFRIED BEANS

  • Dips: bean dip and layered dip
  • Eggs: scrambled or an omelet with onions, chorizo, and a side of beans
  • Mexican dishes: burritos, fajitas, layered casseroles, tacos, quesadillas
  • Mexican lasagna: layer corn tortillas in a baking dish with beans, shredded cheese, ground beef or other meat, jalapeños and red chile sauce (“enchilada sauce”)
  • Sandwiches: including burgers and wraps
  • Mexican pizza: pizza crust or tortillas spread with red chile sauce, then topped with refried beans, sausage, black olives, chopped red onions, jalapeños and cheese; optional “taco garnish” of chopped tomatoes and lettuce
  • Sides: rice and beans (you don’t need Mexican main dishes in order to enjoy the sides); potatoes and beans; potatoes fried with onions, topped with chiles and Mexican cheese; by themselves topped with sour cream or Greek yogurt and cilantro
  • Stuffed peppers: stuff with rice or other grain and beans, top with cheese
  •  
    How would you use them? Let us know!

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Bear In A Blanket

    Who can resist this edible bear? Photo
    courtesy LittleInspiration.com.

     

    We love this brown rice bear in an omelet blanket. What a fun dinner idea for this quiet week, along with a colorful side salad. Have the kids help make it!

    Bear in a Blanket was created by Angie Ramirez of LittleInspiration.com, who shares yummy food, easy DIY crafts, adventures of motherhood and everything in between on her blog.

    The recipe takes only 20 minutes of prep time, 50 minutes of cook time.

    RECIPE: BEAR IN A BLANKET

    Ingredients For One Bear & Blanket

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 scrambled eggs (for the blanket)
  • Small, thin slices of cheese (for the ears and nose)
  • Small, thin slices of black olive (for the eyes and nose)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COOK brown rice on stove top as directed on package, or about 45-50 minutes.

    2. SCRAMBLE eggs with a pinch of salt over medium/high temperature in a lightly buttered skillet pan.

    3. ASSEMBLE the bear in a blanket: Place about 1/2 cup of rice in the middle of the plate to form the bear’s body. Then scoop a medium size ball of rice to form the head. To form the bear’s ears, use a small amount of rice by shaping it like a half circle. Place the omelet on top of the bear’s body to form the blanket. Attach the olive and cheese slivers to form his ears, nose and eyes.

    Serve to happy diners!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Quinoa Bar

    Last month we presented a series of tips to create exciting food bars for entertaining (links below). You can do smaller versions for the family dinner table.

    A few days ago, we discovered a delicious and nutritious quinoa bar at Fresh&Co., a fast-casual, seasonal and organic restaurant concept for health-conscious people who care as much about the quality as the taste. The company currently has eight locations in New York City. For menus and location information, visit:

    Quinoa is perhaps the most nutritious food on earth—a complete protein with more protein per serving than milk! So today’s tip is: for a healthy menu that’s fun and tasty, call on quinoa.

    Fresh&Co Executive Chef Jeremy Leech shared tips for creating a quinoa bar party at home (below); but here are the popular choices at the restaurant which provide a list of ingredients for your own quinoa bar:

     

    The Burrito Quinoa Bowl. Photo courtesy Fresh&Co | NYC.

     

  • Asian Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, smoked tofu, kale, daikon, red bell peppers, edamame, roasted brussels sprouts and scallions with sweet chili sauce
  • Bangkok Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, thai-spiced turkey, daikon, napa cabbage, carrots, broccoli, scallions and cilantro with soy ginger sauce
  • Burrito Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, roasted corn, tomatoes, kale, red beans, cilantro and tortilla strips with chipotle vinaigrette
  • Ginger Seitan Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, kale, kalamata olives, feta, tomatoes and chickpeas with roasted garlic vinaigrette, with grilled shrimp
  • Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl: quinoa, kale, seitan, white cabbage, carrots, daikon, broccoli, scallions, pickled ginger and cilantro with soy ginger sauce
  •  
    Chicken, smoked tofu, thai-spiced turkey and jumbo shrimp are options for any of the salads.

     

    The quinoa bar at Fresh&Co. Photo courtesy
    Fresh&Co | NYC.

     

    TIPS TO CREATE YOUR OWN QUINOA BAR

  • Use fresh and locally sourced products, whenever possible.
  • Have all your ingredients pre-cooked and prepped before guests arrive.
  • Provide a good variety of produce and meats.
  • Make vegans/vegetarians happy with a variety of fresh veggies, as well as some meat substitutes such as tofu or seitan.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw in less common ingredients, such as daikon and napa cabbage.
  • Offer a variety of vinaigrettes and sauces. Make or buy fun options such as chipotle vinaigrette, roasted garlic vinaigrette and sweet chili sauce.
  • Suggest combinations, like the ones served at Fresh&Co.
  •  
    ABOUT QUINOA

    High in the Andes Mountains, quinoa has been cultivated by the Incas for some 5,000 years. Along with corn and potatoes, it was the foundation of the Andean diet.

    Quinoa, pronounced KEEN-wa or KEE-noo-ah, is an exceptionally nutritious supergrain (in fact, it’s the Quechua/Inca word for “mother grain” or “super grain”). It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain; it is not a member of the true grass family. Rather, it’s a broad-leafed, annual herb. The seeds—the part we eat*—are white, red or beige in color.

    Quinoa contains more protein—and higher-quality protein—than any other grain. A complete protein equivalent to milk, it contains all eight essential amino acids and a portfolio of vitamins and minerals: calcium, fiber, iron, lysine, magnesium, vitamins A, B and E and zinc. Everyone should eat more quinoa.

    Cooked quinoa is delicious and extremely versatile; it may be used in the place of almost any other grain, including rice, to make everything from appetizers to desserts (make quinoa pudding instead of rice pudding). It has a slight nutty flavor (red quinoa is the nuttiest), which makes it a good substitute for couscous or bulghur. It has a unique texture as well. When cooked, the thin germ circlet falls from the seed and remains crunchy while the pearly grain melts in the mouth.
     
    *The spinach-like leaves are equally nutritious and tasty, but they are rarely found outside of their growing area.

     
    MORE FOOD BAR IDEAS

  • Breakfast & Brunch Food Bars
  • Lunch & Dinner Food Bars
  • Dessert Food Bar Ideas
  • Drinks & Snacks Food Bar Ideas
  •   

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Electric Rice Cooker

    The more sophisticated rice cookers double as
    slow cookers. Photo courtesy Blendworx.

     

    An electric rice cooker can make fluffy, light, perfect rice every time, without the stove top mess-ups that some people encounter when trying to cook rice.

    You don’t have to lower the flame and watch that the water doesn’t boil over. Just add rice, water and salt, set the dials and walk away until it’s time to serve the rice.

    The rice cooker can cook other grains as well. So if your goal is to pack more fiber and nutrition via barley, brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains, consider adding a rice cooker to your countertop.

    Thanks to USARice.com and Blendworx.com for some of these tips.

     
    CHOOSING A RICE COOKER

    You can find an electric rice cooker for under $20, or a superpremium Zojirushi model for $150 or more (take a look at this beauty). You’ve got decisions to make, starting with capacity. Size: Is a a four-cup rice cooker enough, or do you want the option to make 10 cups? Then, consider your other options:

  • Slow Cooker: Some rice cookers double as slow cookers—a great idea. You can also use them to make soups, stews, breakfast cereals, even desserts.
  • Keep Warm Function: Rather than turning off, the rice cooker will switch to a lower temperature after cooking to keep the rice warm and moist until serving.
  • Steam Tray: A useful attachment that fits over the rice to simultaneously steam fish, meat and/or vegetables.
  • Delay Timer: You can program it in the morning so the rice is ready to eat when you return from work.
  •  

  • Brown Rice/Sushi Rice: An option to cook rice longer.
  • Fuzzy Logic/Smart Logic: A microprocessor senses and adjusts the amount and type of rice to generate the right amount of heat at varying points in the cooking cycle. These tend to be the best rated and most expensive rice cookers, and are ideal for people who enjoy different varieties of rice.
  •  
    Other rice cooker features include slow cook, quick-cook (a cooking cycle that bypasses the soak stage for faster rice), cake “baking” functions and more.
     
    MEASURING RICE FOR A RICE COOKER

    The rice cooker includes a measuring cup that conforms to rice cooker industry standards. Different from U.S. cooking standards, it measures 180 ml or about ¾ cup.

     

    Advanced rice cookers can make conventional white rice, brown rice, sushi rice and more. Photo courtesy Zojirushi.

     

    If your recipe does not call specifically to measure a “rice cooker cup,” you may need to adjust your recipe accordingly.
     
    TYPES OF RICE

    How many different types of rice have you had? Check out our rice Glossary and discover some new options.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook Beans

    Beans are delicious, beans are healthful, beans are inexpensive protein, and we should all eat more beans.

    That’s beans made from scratch, not canned beans, which have a lot of sodium and a mushier texture. (But, let us hastily add: It’s better to eat canned beans than no beans).

    Beans can be added to green salads, served as sides with everything from breakfast eggs to dinner meats. They purée beautifully into dips (try this white bean dip recipe or this white bean bruschetta).

    But some people have trouble cooking beans. Here are tips from Steve Sando, proprietor of Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food. Steve scours the Americas for the finest small-batch, artisan beans. Some are so beautiful, you just want to keep them as decoration in glass jars.

    SOAKING THE BEANS

    If your beans are taking forever and a day to cook, the first question to ask is whether you are soaking them or not. A good soak should last from four to eight hours or overnight.

    Soaking rehydrates the beans, which begin to lose their moisture as soon as they are harvested.

     

    Chili with beans. Photo courtesy Ninja Kitchen.

     
    Fresh-harvested beans can be cooked without soaking. Otherwise, you need to reintroduce moisture so the beans will cook faster. When rehydrated, the beans will double in size.

    Some people have a magical situation where they don’t need to soak their beans, yet they still cook in a reasonable amount of time. But if you have planned ahead and have the time, by all means soak your beans. In addition, soaked beans generally have a more pleasant texture when cooked.

    The big question is whether or not to change the soaking water prior to cooking. Old timers insist on changing the water, which gets rid of the water-soluble oligosaccharides that can cause gas.

    But you are also tossing out vitamins, minerals and pigments. As Harold McGee says in his seminal work, On Food and Cooking, “That’s a high price to pay.” If gas is really an issue (and from what we hear, and we hear it all, it isn’t), try cooking your beans for longer—or pick up some Beano.

     

    Warm Tuscan white bean salad with lemon-
    vinaigrette. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy
    McCormick.com.

     

    THE INITIAL RAPID BOIL

    More than anything, advises Steve Sando, this is the key to how long beans cook. Whether you are using the soaking water, new water, aromatic broth or some combination, you want to bring the beans and liquid to a full-on boil.

    Then, boil for 10 minutes (15 minutes for big, starchy beans or varieties known to take a long time to cook). Then turn the heat to low and allow the beans to cook at a very gentle simmer.

    After one hour, check the beans for doneness. Depending on age, size and variety, beans can take anywhere from an hour to three hours to cook through. Add more water as needed to keep an inch of water on top of the beans; stir occasionally.

    Low and slow is the way to go. If you’re short on time, you can increase the heat to a gentle boil, but you will compromise the texture of the beans.

     

    TROUBLE SHOOTING

    Salt: If you’re having persistent trouble getting your beans to cooking, refrain from adding salt or acids until the beans are soft. It may be an old wives’ tale, but it helps some people.The best time to add the salt is when the beans are al dente.

    Adding baking soda: The alkaline in baking soda can help break down tough beans, but it can also make the beans feel slimy or soapy. Steve doesn’t recommend it, but does suggest Sal Mixteca (Mixteca salt), which is naturally high in bicarbonates that will actually soften your beans. Just a bit at the beginning of cooking will speed things up if you’re having trouble. It’s like the old trick of adding baking soda, but without the off taste and texture.

    Water: The problem might be your water, if you have especially hard water. The solution: Buy a water filtration system (like Brita) and use the filtered water for soaking and cooking.

    EASY RECIPE: BEANS ON TOAST

    Readers of British mysteries will find frequent mentions of “beans on toast,” a common breakfast, lunch or dinner item.

    “I’ve heard that the British love beans on toast, only it’s usually canned beans [in tomato sauce] on plebian white toast,” says Steve Sando. “Here’s my version:”

  • Toast a piece of rustic bread and lightly butter it.
  • Generously pile on hot cooked beans. Any good bean will do, including leftovers.
  • Finally, drizzle the finest olive oil over them.
  •  
    Finish with herbs or other seasoning, from diced onions to shaved Parmesan cheese or sliced sausage. Serve with a side of pickles.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Amaranth, The Grain Of The Future

    Following yesterday’s recommendation of four uncommon whole grains, we received several queries about amaranth.

    Amaranth is planted worldwide, harvested for cereal and leaf vegetables, and used as ornamental plants. It has been cultivated for 8,000 years.

    There are some 60 species, tall plants with foliage ranging from purple and red to green or gold. Like buckwheat and quinoa, amaranth is not a grain but a pseudograin. The difference: True cereals are grasses, pseudocereals are broadleaf plants. Their overall nutrient profile is similar to that of cereals, and they are similarly utilized in cooking.

    The seeds of pseudograins (analogous to the grains of cereals) can be cooked whole or ground into flour, which in turn becomes cereal, goes into tortillas and other baked goods, and becomes snack food: made into candy and chips, popped and made into a bar mixed with honey, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

     

    Tiny beads of amaranth, the seeds of the plant. Photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill.

     
    Pseudocereals can be even more nutritious than grains: both amaranth and quinoa are whole proteins and gluten free.

    A whole protein contains all of the essential amino acids—like meat or milk, but actually a higher quality protein. Amaranth also contains significantly more calcium, iron, fiber, magnesium and protein than cereals like oats, rice, rye, sorghum and wheat.

    In fact, amaranth packs more protein than any other plant on earth; NASA selected it as part of its astronauts’ diets. The leaves Amaranth pack more calcium, iron and vitamin C and than spinach. It also can withstand the triple digit temperatures of climate change, which corn cannot.
     
    8,000 YEARS OF AMARANTH

    Amaranth was a staple grain of the pre-Colombian Aztec diet, along with corn (maize). But amaranth was banned by the Spanish conquistadors for its use in human sacrifice rituals. Corn went on to become a staple grain worldwide, while amaranth faded into obscurity in Mexico.

    It did, however, spread around the world: Both leaves and seeds became important food sources in areas of Africa, India and Nepal. In recent decades, amaranth it has spread to China, Nigeria, Russia and Thailand, and other parts of South America.

    And, it’s now grown in the U.S., in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, New York (Long Island) and North Dakota.

    The plant, called “the crop of the future” by Science magazine in 1977, is finally making a comeback in Mexico thanks to two American philanthropists who are encouraging farmers to grow it. Mexico has the highest rate of adult obesity in the world, yet each year some 10,000 children die from malnutrition.*

     

    Amaranth cookies. Here’s the recipe. Photo ©
    ChocorrolDeVainilla.com.

     

    COOKING AMARANTH

    The flavor of amaranth flavor runs from light and nutty to lively and peppery. It’s a natural ingredient for breads, cookies, crackers, muffins, pancakes and porridge. The cooked grains can be spread sprinkled on salads and soups.

    Cooking amaranth is very easy. As with cereal grains, simply boil with water and salt (6 cups of water per cup of amaranth) for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally; then drain, rinse and eat. The cooking liquid becomes thick and viscous from the starch released as the amaranth cooks.

    Cooked amaranth never loses its crunch completely. Chewing a spoonful of cooked amaranth grains has been compared to eating a spoonful of caviar: a slight pop on the surface and a soft inside.

     
    Try these recipes:

  • Popped Amaranth Crunch
  • Amaranth Polenta With Wild Mushrooms
  • Blueberry Amaranth Porridge
  • Creamy Cannellini Bean and Amaranth Soup
  • Oat and Amaranth-Crusted Ham and Cheese Quiche
  • Amaranth Banana Walnut Bread
  • Amaranth-Ginger Muffins
  •  
    *Ironically, these issues are linked: Childhood malnutrition makes children seven to eight times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult.

    Sources:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/devinthorpe/2013/06/26/amaranth-how-will-it-change-the-world/
    http://www.pri.org/stories/science/environment/mexicans-pushing-for-return-of-ancient-grain-amaranth-to-agriculture-14176.html
    http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Something New For National Whole Grains Month

    Just because it’s National Whole Grains Month doesn’t mean you have to flock to the brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Good as they are, why not try something new—something you might enjoy as much or more? Because whole grains are not only good for you; they’re delicious.

    Thousands of years ago, many more grains were cultivated; in modern times, the majority have fallen out of fashion. Yet, with focus on the important health benefits of whole grains and the recommended 3-5 servings daily, these largely-forgotten nutritional powerhouses call out for your attention.

    All of the ancient grains are very healthful and excellent sources of protein and dietary fiber. They’re a less expensive way to add high protein to your diet, with minimal fat. You may know farro, quinoa and other newly “discovered” ancient grains, but how about these four?

    1. Amaranth. Amaranth was first cultivated 8,000 years in Mesoamerica. Like quinoa, is actually a seed, not a grain. Like quinoa, it is a whole protein, containing all of the essential amino acids (the amino acid lysine is lacking in many grains); and is gluten free. Amaranth contains unusually high-quality protein and is higher in fiber than wheat, corn, rice, or soybeans. Use it place of corn grits in your polenta. Try this Amaranth Polenta with Wild Mushrooms recipe.

     

    Quinoa cakes with spinach, feta and lemon-dill yogurt sauce is a healthier take on spanakopita. Photo courtesy PaniniHappy.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    2. Kamut. Kamut is a trademarked term for khorasan wheat, an ancient relative of modern durum wheat. It originated in Egypt thousands of years ago. Legend says that Noah brought khorasan wheat on the ark, hence the nickname “Prophet’s Wheat.” The grain has inherent sweetness and a buttery taste; it also delivers iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc, plus 7 grams of protein per serving. Try using it in a vegetarian main course, such as Kamut Grain and Shiitake Risotto with Thyme.

     

    Banana bread made with teff. Here’s the
    recipe. Photo courtesy
    52KitchenAdventures.com.

     

    3. Millet. Millet was cultivated in China some 10,000 years ago, making it one of the earliest cultivated grains. It was revered in ancient China as one of five sacred crops*. Whole grain millet is a good source of protein, essential amino acids and fiber. Quick-cooking, easily digested and naturally gluten free, millet has a mild, sweet flavor and can be served in sweet or savory preparations. Try it as a hot breakfast cereal. Serve it as an alternative to rice in salads and stir-fries. Serve millet with a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper in place of mashed potatoes. Add a crunch to deviled eggs, salads and other recipes with toasted millet seeds (recipe). You can also add uncooked millet to breads for a crunchy texture and a hint of sweetness.

     

    4. Teff. Teff is an ancient North African cereal grass, and the smallest grain in the world. The germ and bran, where the nutrients are concentrated, account for a much larger volume of the seed compared to more familiar grains, which provides its “nutritional powerhouse” standing. One serving of whole grain teff averages 4 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of protein and nearly one quarter of our suggested daily calcium intake. Cook or bake with it: Here’s a delicious Apple and Pear Crisp made with teff.

    There’s more to consider, of course. Here’s a complete list of whole grains:

    Amaranth, barley (but not pearled barley), buckwheat (kasha), bulgur (cracked wheat), chia/Salba®†, corn (whole grain corn or cornmeal, yellow or white, but not grits), farro (emmer wheat), flaxseed, grano, hemp, Kamut® (khorasan wheat), millet, oats (oatmeal, whole or rolled oats), popcorn, quinoa, rice (black, brown, red, wild), rye (whole), spelt, sorghum, teff, triticale (a barley/wheat hybrid), whole wheat.

     
    *The list varies by source. The Classic of Rites, compiled by Confucius in the 6th century B.C.E., lists broomcorn, foxtail millet, hemp, soybeans and wheat.

      

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