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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

TIP OF THE DAY: Grits ~ Not Just A Side At Breakfast

A bag of premium grits from Charleston
Favorites. Photo by Saidi Granados | THE
NIBBLE.

 

Three-quarters of grits purchased in the U.S. are sold in the South; the area stretching from Virginia to Texas is sometimes referred to as the “grits belt.” This tip is for everyone who lives outside of it.

But before we dig in, we’ve got to plug the finest grits money can buy, from AnsonMills.com, producer of heritage, organic grits and other fine grains. Your friends who cook will appreciate a bag. There are delicious recipes on the website, too.

If you like cooked cereal or polenta, add grits to your lineup. And enjoy them at all three meals.

  • Breakfast: as a porridge with with fruit plus a pat of butter, some milk and a sweetener; or as a savory side with eggs. You can stir in cheese to make cheese grits or sprinkle grated Parmesan on them (cheese grits recipe). We like to add a bit of thyme or oregano.
  • Lunch/dinner: as a side dish with with grated cheese, gravy, sliced green onions, sautéed mushrooms or the creative toppings/mix-ins of your choice (we like a small dice of sautéed bell pepper, mushrooms and onions). Shrimp and grits are a popular pairing.
  •  

     
    More ways to flavor grits:

  • With heat: add minced jalapeños or chipotle, or a mix of cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin and paprika; serve with salsa.
  • Garlic grits: Add crushed roasted garlic or garlic powder to plain or cheese grits.
  • Bacon or sausage grits: mix grits with crumbled bacon or sausage.
  •  
    Grits can be set like polenta, by placing the cooked grits in an ungreased loaf pan and cooling for 30 minutes or longer. The loaf is turned out and sliced for grilling or frying with a coating of flour, salt and pepper.

    Grits casserole is another alternative: Combine grits with any ingredients (bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, other vegetables, sausage or other meat including crumbled leftover burgers and seasonings) and bake at 350°F for 35 minutes.

    GRITS PURCHASING TIPS

  • Stone ground: Look for stone-ground grits, which retain the hull and nutritious germ (which houses the wheat germ oil) of the kernel attached. “Degerminated” cornmeal means that the hull and germ have been removed. “Speckled” grits are whole kernel grits.
  • Slow-Cooking: Although it saves time to prepare instant or quick-cooking grits, they have less corn flavor than the conventional slow-cooking product. Some of the flavor is lost in the par-cooking that speeds up the time on your stovetop.
  • Color: Grits are yellow or white, based on the color of corn. Anson Mills, producers of heritage grits (and our favorite grits), notes that grits made from white corn have more interesting mineral and floral notes. White corn was historically popular in the urban port cities of the South, while yellow corn was popular inland, in rural areas.
  •  

    GRITS & POLENTA: THE DIFFERENCE

    There is no labeling standard in the U.S., so the answer to the question isn’t readily apparent. Both grits and polenta are ground cornmeal, which is ground from maize. The difference is in the grind: cornmeal for polenta is ground much finer than the pellets of grits. If you want to substitute grits for cornmeal, you can grind them to a finer texture.

    We like to think of polenta as “Italian grits” and grits as “America polenta,” but, based on local cuisines, the are served in slightly different ways. Polenta is not served as a breakfast cereal, for example.

    WHAT ARE GRITS

    Grits are corn kernels that are soaked in lye or other alkaline solution to remove the casing. At this point, they are known as hominy; hence the term, hominy grits. The hominy is left to harden and then is ground to the texture of tiny pellets, the “grits.”

    Grits are boiled with water into a porridge similar to cream of wheat. Grits are of Native American origin, but our modern word comes from the Old English “grytt,” meaning coarse meal.

     

    Grits with miso-glazed shrimp. Photo courtesy Silk Road Tavern | NYC.

     
    WHAT IS POLENTA

    Polenta is coarsely-ground yellow corn, also known as cornmeal, that is slowly cooked with milk/cream, stock or water. A staple in Northern Italy, it is called cornmeal mush in the U.S. It can be served soft like grits with a sauce (mushroom ragu is our favorite) or grated cheese; or can be set into a block shape, then sliced and grilled or pan fried. Polenta can be enjoyed plain, with a sauce (tomato sauce is traditional), or topped with fish, meat, pasta sauce or vegetables. As with grits, polenta can be served sweet or savory.

    HOW ABOUT MASA?

    To add a third variable, there is masa, also called hominy: maize kernels that are dried and treated with a solution of calcium hydroxide, an alkaline solution also called slaked lime and wood ash. This process, which loosens the hulls so they can more easily be separated from the kernels,* is called nixtamalization. Died and ground, the kernels are called masa harina, which is used to make arepas, tamales, tortillas, among other Latin American dishes including a chocolate pudding. It is also the base of corn chips, which were originally made (in Los Angeles), by cutting and frying leftover tortillas.

    *In addition, the process softens the corn. As a side benefit, the alkaline solution reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be more easily assimilated by the digestive tract.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Semolina Flour

    Semolina flour. Photo courtesy King Arthur
    Flour.

     

    As we were writing about this past week’s Top Pick, Effie’s Semolina Crackers, we drilled down into semolina, the durum wheat-based flour from which they are made. Part of the review addresses “what is semolina.”

    We came across an article from Shubhra Krishan, author of Essential Ayurveda: What It Is And What It Can Do For You and other books. Read the full article here.

    Here’s her short list of the health benefits of semolina:

  • Energy: For those who lead an active lifestyle, semolina is a quick and nourishing source of energy.
  • Fullness: Semolina is digested slowly. This helps you feel full longer.
  • Kidneys: The potassium content in semolina helps to improve kidney function.
  • Minerals: The trace minerals in semolina, such as phosphorus, zinc and magnesium, are beneficial for the health of your bones and nervous system.
  • Vitamins: Semolina is a good source of two vital vitamins: E and the B group.
  •  
    WAYS TO USE SEMOLINA IN EVERYDAY COOKING

     

  • Bread: Bake semolina raisin bread—it’s so good, you should make extra loaves for the freezer. Here’s a semolina fennel raisin bread recipe. Or, substitute semolina flour for some of the all-purpose flour in any bread recipe. Itwill yield a tender crumb and a crisp crust.
  • Cereal: Make this semolina porridge recipe. It‘s delicious comfort food, and requires only milk and semolina flour (plus optional pinch of salt, pat of butter, chopped nuts, drizzle of honey, dried fruit, fresh berries, etc.).
  • Cookies: Make lemon semolina cookies.
  • Fish & Chicken: Use semolina with fried or grilled fish or chicken. Coat the protein in semolina before crumbing or battering; it forms a seal between the fillet and the batter. This tip comes from an owner of a fish and chips shop, who says that one can coat and stack the fish fillets and they won’t stick together, as they would with all purpose flour. She says that they can actually be coated the day before.
  •  

    Semolina is a better thickener than all-purpose flour. Photo by Evegny B. | ISP.

    When grilling, semolina provides a golden crunch and also helps to retain moisture.

  • Pasta: Whip up some homemade pasta.
  • Pizza: Roll out pizza crust with semolina flour, which will give it a crunchy exterior. If you like a chewy pizza crust, make the dough with semolina flour.
  • Soups, Stews, Gravies: Thicken soups, stews and gravies with semolina flour. It doesn’t clump as readily as all-purpose flour. Add a pinch at a time as the recipe simmers, stirring constantly, until you reach the desired thickness.
  •  
    IF YOU HAVE OTHER SEMOLINA RECOMMENDATIONS, LET US KNOW.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Tofu Bean Chili For National Chili Day

    Bean chili with cubes of tofu. Photo
    courtesy House Foods America.

     

    Today is National Chili Day. Chili has long been the subject of passionate debate:

    Texas-style or Mexican? Beef only, meat and beans or beans-only-vegetarian? With tomatoes or without? Spiced with cumin? With a dash of chocolate or coffee? Served plain or over rice? Et cetera, et cetera and so forth.

    Whatever your preferences, today is the day to enjoy a steaming bowl of chili. Make it with beans: Americans eat too few bean dishes, and beans are such an important, inexpensive and nutritious source of protein.

    For even more protein and texture, add tofu. You’ll have a delicious dish that’s high in protein and low in fat.

    We adapted this recipe from House Foods America, America’s leading purveyor of tofu, which is non-GMO verified and made from certified organic soybeans.

     

    TOFU BEAN CHILI RECIPE

    We like the medey of three different types of beans, but if you only have one or two on hand, that’s O.K., too.

    Ingredients

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, drained, cut into small dice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded, small dice
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 can (16 ounces) black beans
  • 1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans
  • 1 can (16 ounces) pinto beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained,* or tomato sauce
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • Dash paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced, or 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Optional: 1 can corn, drained*
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Garnishes: chopped green onions or snipped chives, nonfat Greek yogurt or sour cream, shredded Cheddar
  •  
    *We like to save the drained liquid and use it instead of water in other recipes. It adds more flavor, but you may need to add less salt to the recipe because of the salt already in the canned vegetable liquid.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT olive oil in a large pot. Add onion and garlic and bell pepper and sauté until tender.

    2. ADD remaining ingredients except tomatoes and tofu, stirring to combine.

    3. ADD tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.

    4. ADD tofu and cook an additional minute or two until heated. Serve plain or with rice or other grain.

    VARIATION: For a more soup-like dish, add a cup or two of tomato juice or broth.
     
    QUICK RECIPE WITH CANNED CHILI

    If you don’t have a lot of time, start with canned chili.

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 pkg (7 ounces) extra firm or firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chili beans or low-fat chili
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Garnish: 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  •  

    Enjoy chili plain or with a garnish of sour cream and chives or grated Cheddar. Photo courtesy McCormick.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a pot and heat.

    2. GARNISH and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Farro, An Ancient Grain

    A “leftovers” salad: farro with cooked
    carrots, peas and corn; diced tomatoes and
    ham; sliced olives and cooked yellow bell
    pepper. Photo © Denio Rigacci | Dreamstime.

     

    Farro is the original wheat, one of the first cereals domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. It nurtured the population of the Mediterranean and Middle East for thousands of years. It was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians; it became the staple ration of the Roman Legions; it was ground to create the original polenta.

    It has a nutty flavor; a firm, chewy texture; and is lighter in body than traditional grains such as rice and barley. Like arborio rice, farro releases a creamy liquid similar when cooked and can be used to make a [chewier] risotto.

    Because it was harder to grow and produced lower yields, farro, an unhybridized form of wheat, took a back seat to higher-yielding hybrids. By the beginning of the 20th century, there were a just a few hundred acres under cultivation in Italy and little was grown elsewhere, except in Ethiopia (where emmer constitutes about 7% of the wheat crop).

    Gourmet restaurants saved the farro crop—or rather, it was saved by the farmers of the French Haute Savoie who brought their product to them.

    Always seeking something new to please their clientele, chefs embraced farro in soups, stews and sides. Their foodie clients wanted more, and the health-conscious discovered the nutrition of this whole grain. Today, you can find it at the supermarket.

     

    FARRO IS NOT SPELT; IT IS EMMER WHEAT

    Farro looks rather like spelt, another early version of wheat; but they are not the same. Farro is emmer wheat, the original wheat. The botanical name for farro and emmer wheat is Triticum dicoccum; spelt is Triticum spelta; our modern wheat is Triticum aestivum.

  • Farro must be soaked, whereas spelt can be cooked directly from the package.
  • Cooked farro is firm and chewy; spelt is soft and becomes mushy when overcooked.
  • To be sure you’re getting whole grain farro, look for “whole” on the label. “Pearled” farro is not a whole grain.
     
    Whole grain farro is high in fiber plus magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E. It has less gluten than other varieties of wheat, making it easier to digest. As with other grains, it can be ground into flour to make bread and pasta.

  •  

    Pick up a bag of farro on your next trip to the food store.

  • Breakfast: Use farro in place of your morning oatmeal. Top it with apples, maple syrup and cinnamon.
  • Leftovers: Add any type of leftovers to farro to create a new side or salad, as we did in the photo above.
  • Lunch Salad or Side: Combine cooked farro with olive oil, tomatoes, feta and olives for a Mediterranean-inspired salad. Or try this delicious farro and beet salad recipe.
  • Rice Substitute: Cook and serve as you would serve rice.
  • Soups & Stews: Use farro in soups and stews for a heartier, earthier flavor.
  • Soup Meal: Cook farro with vegetable or chicken stock and your favorite vegetables for a warming and delicious light meal.
  •  

    If you can’t find farro in your local market, check at natural foods stores. Photo courtesy Roland.

     

    What’s your favorite way to use farro? Let us know!

      

    Comments

    NEW YEAR’S RECIPE: Hoppin’ John

      Hoppin’ John: a Southern New Year’s Eve
      tradition for good luck. Photo courtesy
      Friedas.com.

       

      In long-standing traditions, people the world over eat certain foods to ring in the New Year. We’re aiming to fix a New Year’s Eve dinner with all of them.

      Here are the foods that hopefully bring health and prosperity in the new year. Coincidentally, all of them are very nutritious—another reason to enjoy them as you usher in the new year.

    1. Beans: money. Ancient man used certain beans as currency (cacao beans are the most famous example). As civilization evolved, beans symbolized coins. Beans are a nutritional powerhouse: Make a New Year’s resolution to add more of them to your weekly diet. Enjoy a bean salad or hot bean dish: anything from black beans to lentils to the Hoppin’ John recipe below, made with black-eyed peas and rice. Check out our Beans Glossary for more bean inspiration.
    2. Figs: fertility. Want to hear the patter of little feet in the new year? Chow down on figs. We love them with fresh goat cheese. One of the first foods cultivated by man, figs are naturally rich in minerals and vitamins, including antioxidants.
    3.  

    4. Fish: money. Silvery scales resemble money and fish swim in schools, which signifies abundance. Fish are packed with nutritional benefits, from protein to omega 3s in fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna—head for the sushi bar).
    5. Grains: abundance. We’re making risotto—a personal favorite. Make recipes with whole grains, and you’ll get lots of fiber and nutrients that can lower cholesterol, risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. Beyond brown rice, work barley, quinoa and other whole grains into your repertoire (list of whole grains and more health benefits). Check out our Beans & Grains Glossary and our Rice Glossary.
    6. Grapes: a sweet year. When the clock chimes 12, Mexicans pop 12 grapes, one for each stroke of midnight. Each grape represents a month. If you get a bitter grape, beware of that month!
    7. Greens: money. Green vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and are low in calories. Make anything from your favorite Brussels sprouts dish to a big green salad.
    8. Noodles: long life. Whole wheat and buckwheat noodles (like Japanese soba) are a great source of fiber. Enjoy your favorite pasta or Asian noodle dish.
    9. Pork: good luck. Pigs are a lucky symbol because they root forward and are rotund. Include some bacon, pork or sausage in your New Year’s Eve dinner.
    10. Pomegranate seeds: prosperity. The pomegranate’s many seeds symbolize abundance. Scatter them in sauces; sprinkle them on everything from porridge and yogurt to luncheon salads to ice cream and sorbet.
    11.  

      HOPPIN’ JOHN: A RECIPE WITH SEVERAL
      “LUCKY” INGREDIENTS

      Hoppin’ John is a traditional Southern dish enjoyed on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day to usher in a year of prosperity. It combines several good luck foods: beans, greens, pork and rice.

      Some recipes substitute ham hock, fatback, or country sausage for the conventional bacon; some add green peas, a splash of vinegar and/or favorite spices.

      Enjoy Hoppin’ John as a hearty side with your favorite protein and a green salad (toss grapes and pomegranate seeds into that salad to up the good luck ante).

      This recipe is courtesy Frieda’s, one of America’s finest specialty produce companies. Use dried habaneros if you like a slightly milder, smokier flavor.

      HOPPIN’ JOHN RECIPE

      Ingredients

       

      Black-eyed or blackeyed peas are a Southern specialty. Photo courtesy Zursun.

    12. 1-1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
    13. 11-ounces pre-soaked blackeyed peas (or soak regular blackeyed peas overnight)
    14. 4 1/2 cups water
    15. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced or 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
    16. 1 bay leaf
    17. 6 bacon strips
    18. 1 cup onion, chopped
    19. 1 cup red or green bell pepper, chopped
    20. 1/2 cup celery, minced
    21. 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
    22. 1 garlic clove, minced
    23. 1 habanero chile, seeded and finely minced (or dried habaneros, reconstituted according to package directions)
    24. Salt and pepper to taste
    25.  

      Preparation

      1. COMBINE rice with blackeyed peas and water in a Dutch oven. Stir in thyme and bay leaf. Cover and bring mixture to a boil. Uncover and reduce heat and simmer 15 to 18 minutes or until rice and beans are done, checking to make sure mixture does not boil dry.

      2. MEANWHILE, in a medium skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons of drippings in skillet. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, parsley, garlic, and habanero chile to drippings in pan. Sauté about 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Crumble bacon; add to skillet. Remove from heat.

      3. DRAIN off any excess liquid when rice and beans are done. Remove bay leaf. Stir bacon mixture into rice and beans. The longer it sits, the more the flavors blend.

      WHO IS HOPPIN’ JOHN NAMED FOR?

      Probably, nobody. Some food historians believe that the name is a corruption of the Haitian Creole term for blackeyed peas: pois pigeons (pwah-pee-JONE).

        

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN RECIPE: “Deviled Eyeballs,” Halloween Deviled Eggs

    Turn traditional deviled eggs into deviled eyeballs, eye-popping treats that delight young and old alike. We just love this recipe!

    Serve the Deviled Eyeballs with Eyeball Martinis.

    Makes: 16 halves
    Prep time: 20 minutes
    Cook time: 15 min for eggs

    RECIPE: “DEVILED EYEBALLS,” HALLOWEEN
    DEVILED EGGS

    Ingredients

  • 8 hard-cooked eggs (how to make them)
  • 2 fully ripened avocados from Mexico, halved,
    pitted, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated horseradish, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground or cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  •  

    Are you looking at me? Photo courtesy Avocados From Mexico.

     

    For The Eyes

  • Roasted red peppers
  • Black olives
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BOIL. Cook and peel eggs (cooking instructions). Cut in half lengthwise. Remove yolks to medium bowl; arrange whites on serving platter.

    2. COMBINE. Add avocados and lemon juice to bowl with yolks; mash until smooth, mixing well. Stir in horseradish, salt and black and cayenne peppers.

    3. FILL. Fill egg white halves with heaping tablespoon of mixture, piling high.

    4. DECORATE. To make devilish eyes, thinly slice roasted red peppers to create veins on the “eyeballs.” Top with sliced black olives.
     
    Find more delicious avocado recipes at AvocadosFromMexico.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Hemp As Food

    Our tip of the day is to try some hemp foods. June 4-10 marks the third annual Hemp History Week, an event that aims to generate awareness of hemp as a healthful and sustainable food crop for both America’s families and farmers (while American farmers often net less than $50 per acre for soy and corn crops, Canadian farmers just across the border net an average of $200-$400 per acre for hemp).

    Hemp has been grown commercially in the U.S. since the first European settlers arrived in early 1600s. Thomas Jefferson grew it; the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper; and until the mid-20th century, hemp was a valued food crop.

    Chef Johnny Gnall recently tried a variety of hemp foods. His report follows. You can email Chef Johnny. directly at with questions and suggestions.

    Hemp foods, long available in health food stores, have been slowly creeping into the mainstream. The biggest problem is government, which classifies all three hemp plant species in the genus Cannabis with the variety that produces marijuana; and many consumers think the same.

     

    Hemp seeds produce milk, oil, flour and much more—including hemp variations of our favorite foods. Photo courtesy HempHistory Week.com.

     

    Of the three species of Cannabis, one has long been used for hemp fiber; one for hemp seed and hemp oil, which are made into a broad variety of food products; and the third for the recreational drug. The federal government has declared it illegal to grow any Cannabis variety (some states have recently allowed medical marijuana to be grown).

    But fiber and food hemp have no drug value. Food hemp is harvested for the seeds, which contain little to no measurable amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in drug forms of Cannabis. Eating hemp-based foods will not cause a false positive drug test. But it will supply outstanding nutrition.

    WE’RE HAPPY WITH HEMP FOODS

    If you’re looking for an easy way to pile on nutrition, start eating more hemp foods. Before you assume that this advice comes from some sandal-clad liberal living in a commune (not!), consider the facts:

  • Hemp is an excellent source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (as well as super omega-3 and super omega-6).
  • It’s rich in unsaturated fat (that’s the good kind of fat—more on good and bad fats).
  • Hemp is also rich in pure, digestible protein, and is a heart-healthy superfood.
  • It has a good balance of all eight essential amino acids, plus three times the vitamin E and twice the iron and magnesium of flax seed.
  •  
    This makes a pretty compelling case for all of us to start eating more hemp-based foods. Step into a natural foods store and you’ll find hemp is made into culinary oil, hempmilk (a nondairy milk that is more digestible than soymilk), ice cream and snack bars; bagels, burgers, oatmeal, pasta and taco shells. The shelled seeds—called hemp hearts—are added to cereals, dressing, desserts, omelets, salads, smoothies, soups and yogurts for added nutrition, and are toasted as snacks.

     

    Hemp hearts, which are shelled hemp seeds.
    Photo courtesy Healing-Source.com.

     

    As good as it is for you, hemp is not the most accessible and well-known of foods. Most consumers and cooks are unfamiliar with it and few mainstream grocery stores carry it.

    I recently tried a number of hemp products available in my local natural foods store, and found them to be easy to use as substitutions and additions in various recipes.

    Moreover, the fact that most hemp products are gluten- and dairy-free makes them a great go-to ingredient for those with food allergies or other dietary restrictions.

    Hemp seeds typically add a subtle nutty flavor to foods, pleasant and in no way overpowering—almost like a hint of peanut butter.

     

    There are four hemp products that I found to be particularly versatile and tasty. The brands are trusted ones, but it’s the foods themselves to which I‘d like to draw attention.

    Use these suggestions as a starting point, but realize their versatility and think outside the box. What foods can you think of that could use an upping of protein and good fats? You’re only limited by your own imagination…and you’ll be healthier for it.

    Hemp Milk (“Tempt” from Living Harvest): I used it to make polenta, and it was excellent. The nuttiness was welcome, providing a creaminess despite the lack of dairy. The hemp milk behaved in the same way dairy milk would. There’s no reason you can’t substitute it wherever you might use cow’s milk.

    Cold-Pressed Hemp Oil (Nutiva brand): Don’t use hemp oil to sautée or fry; do use it in bread dippers, on salads and in other dressings, and anywhere you might drizzle olive oil. I actually used it (along with the hemp milk) to make a couple of batches of cornbread, and the subtle nuttiness worked extremely well. Baking is probably the only way you should cook with hemp oil; it generally shines best when raw.

    Raw, Shelled, Hempseeds (Hemp Hearts from Manitoba Harvest): You can pretty much eat these little guys plain and by the handful. Their light, fluffy texture and that same nutty flavor are actually quite pleasant. You can also mix them into just about anything, including batters and doughs, cereals, grains and pastas. I found them to be particularly tasty in quinoa, where its flavor and texture were right at home.

    Hemp Oatmeal (Nature’s Path brand): This is essentially oatmeal with hemp seeds mixed in, a tasty and convenient product in individual packets. Try it with a tablespoon of maple syrup and handful of raisins, or with a few ounces of hot milk (or hot hemp milk) stirred in. Or mix the entire packet into another cereal, homemade granola, trail mix or even a muffin batter. It’s a tasty way to get some essential nutrition.

    Join natural products advocates, retail stores, health and wellness practitioners and citizens across the country in celebrating hemp. Check out Hemp History Week.

    More about hemp.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Fun With Pearl Couscous ~ Israeli Couscous

    Make a pearl/Israeli couscous salad instead
    of rice salad. It pairs well with just about any
    other ingredients. Photo by Travelling Light |
    IST.

     

    Chef Johnny Gnall has been experimenting with pearl couscous sent from Bob’s Red Mill, with delicious results. His report follows. If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.

    When most people think of couscous (KOOS-koos), they think of Moroccan couscous: fluffy piles of semolina, their tiny grains not much larger than coarse cornmeal.

    But pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous) has been making its way onto more and more menus and supermarket shelves. The beautiful round beads (pearls) of semolina are most deserving of finding their way to your kitchen.

    Pearl/Israeli couscous is larger and toothier than Moroccan couscous. (EDITOR’S NOTE: We prefer the term “pearl” to “Israeli” couscous. Pearl is an accurate description; “Israeli” seems to limit one’s thoughts of the ingredient to Israeli/Middle Eastern cuisine. You can use it to replace orzo or rice.)

    The pearls have a pleasant, chewy texture when properly cooked, giving the couscous a real comfort food quality. Think of macaroni and cheese made with big, thick elbow noodles. That same type of enjoyable, al dente bite is so satisfying, and it’s something that you can’t get out of Moroccan couscous (though you’re probably not looking for it there anyway).

     

    People often think of pearl couscous as exotic. But it’s made of the same semolina wheat as pasta. You should think of it as any other small cut of pasta, like alphabets; corallini, ditallini and tubettini (tiny tubes); orzo (shaped like grains of rice); and pastina (tiny stars).

    Bob’s Red Mill carries three varieties of pearl couscous: Natural, Tricolor and Whole Wheat.

  • Original couscous is beautiful: The small ecru-white beads are elegant whether in a soup, underneath a protein (see salmon photo below) or in a salad or side dish.
  • Tricolor couscous is fun, visually appealing pearls of white, green and pink (the latter two flavored with spinach and tomato, respectively). It’s especially appealing in a salad, side or dessert (such as a couscous riff on rice pudding).
  • Whole wheat couscous provides a particularly nutritious alternative to rice or pasta (or other couscous). Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous is like other whole wheat pasta that is made with 100% whole grain flour. It contains 7 grams of protein and 25 g fiber per 1/3-cup serving.
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    HOW TO COOK & SERVE PEARL COUSCOUS

    Pearl couscous substitutes seamlessly for rice or any grain. Cook pearl couscous like pasta: Bring salted water to a boil, using 1.5 times the amount of water as pasta (or cover the dry pasta by 2-3 inches). You can also use stock, or toss a bouillon cube into the water for extra flavor.

    Cooking time will vary; test after five minutes. The pearls will absorb some water and should be both soft and chewy. (Remember, it will continue to cook when you remove it from the heat.)

    From there, you can:

     

    Make A Couscous Salad

    Add diced tomato, red onion, feta cheese and torn basil for a Greek-style salad; use cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes or roasted red pepper when tomatoes are out of season. Or use chopped pistachios, golden raisins and cubed roasted squash for a Moroccan-style salad in any season.

    In fact, you can add just about any three ingredients to make a couscous salad. Try a vegetable, a nut or legume and an herb, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and a splash of acid—citrus juice or vinegar. Proteins are also welcome: cubes of chicken and tofu work especially well. The recipe in the photo at the top uses leftover corn and peas, a bit of oil and balsamic vinegar, and a garnish of grated Parmesan.

    For the best presentation, cut or chop your ingredients into small pieces, so they look at home nestled within the pearl couscous.

    Treat It Like Pasta

    Top couscous with tomato sauce and shredded Parmesan to keep it simple. Or toss it with olive oil, herbs and vegetables for Pearl Couscous Primavera. If you want to indulge, make some Pearl Couscous Carbonara with egg, Parmesan and diced pancetta.

     

    Salmon atop a bed of couscous. Photo by M. Sheldrake | Dreamstime.

     

    Go Full-On Comfort Food

    Three words: Mac. And. Cheese. The chewiness of pearl couscous really is wonderful with a gooey cheese like Gruyère or mozzarella, and a topping of crispy breadcrumbs (try panko). The symphony of tastes and textures will have your lids dropping in pleasure.

    Turn It Into Couscous Risotto

    Start by toasting the pearl couscous in a pot over medium-high heat with a touch of olive oil. Then begin stirring liquid in, just as you would with risotto. You can use any liquid that suits you; water or stock with a little white wine are probably your best bets.

    Take It Swimming

    Once it’s cooked, drop pearl couscous directly into soups, stews and chilis. It provides a pleasant texture and adds body to the food.

    To add some extra love, flavor the couscous cooking water with some of the vegetables or aromatics in the main dish. Just drop them into the pot with the couscous as it cooks. Carrots and onions impart a bit of sweetness, herbs add depth and flavor. Even a bone from whatever beast you may be stewing can be a nice touch to build the complexity of your couscous.

    THE HISTORY OF COUSCOUS

    Couscous is more than 1,000 years old. The Berbers, who lived along the northern (Mediterranean) coast of Africa, west of the Nile Valley (modern Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia—the Barbary Coast/Berber Coast), ate wheat as a staple grain. Over generations, they learned that by grinding the wheat and making couscous, it would keep for years—insurance against drought and famine. The result has long been a base for North African cooking.

    Couscous is made from yellow granules of semolina, made from durum pasta wheat, which are precooked and then dried. The pearl grains are the original couscous. They were made by hand-rolling semolina grains on screens, with olive oil, water and salt, letting the small grains fall through, and rolling them again until a consistent size grain was formed. The grains are then coated with olive oil salt and sun-dried, giving them a toasty flavor when cooked. The name is derived from Bhe Berber seksu meaning well rolled, well formed and rounded.

    The term can refer to the ingredient itself or a prepared dish. Like pasta or rice, couscous is versatile and has numerous preparations. It is simple to prepare: Just add boiling water and let it sit. It can be flavored with exotic spices or served plain. North African stews (tagines) are traditionally served over it.

    Couscous is now widely available in most supermarkets. Keeping with food trends, specialty producers such as Bob’s Red Mill sell whole wheat couscous and tricolor in addition to the natural white pearls.

      

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    ST. PATRICK’S DAY RECIPE: Barley “Risotto” Stuffed Cabbage

    Risotto is made from rice, but you can cook other grains in a similar fashion. Here, barley, which grows well in the northern Irish climate, gets the Italian risotto treatment. To add an Irish touch, the barley risotto is used as a filling for stuffed cabbage.

    The pearl barley used in this recipe has had its outer bran and husk removed, leaving a small white “pearl” of endosperm. Like white rice, pearl barley is not a whole grain.

    This recipe, which serves four, is from Justin O’Connor, Executive Chef at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. It will be served at the restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day.

    BARLEY RISOTTO STUFFED CABBAGE RECIPE

    Ingredients For Stuffed Cabbage

  • 8 ounces pearl barley
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) vegetable stock
  • 7 ounces cream
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 large leaves of Savoy* cabbage
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    Cabbage stuffed with barley risotto. Photo courtesy Guinness.

     

    *Savoy cabbage has a lovely crinkled skin. If you can’t find it, you can substitute conventional cabbage.

    Ingredients For The Tomato Sauce

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 28 ounces (800g) chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 ounces (75g) tomato purée
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup (200ml) vegetable stock
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    Tomato Sauce Preparation

    1. Sweat. In a pan, sweat onion and garlic with olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Do not allow them to brown.

    2. Combine. Add the chopped tomato and tomato purée.

    3. Add. Add vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper.

    4. Cook. Cook over low heat for 7-8 minutes. Blend and serve.

    Stuffed Cabbage Preparation

    1. Blanch. Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes and cool in ice water.

    2. Sweat. In a pot, sweat the onion, mushroom and garlic with a little olive oil for 4 or 5 minutes, without turning brown.

    3. Add. Pour in the stock, barley and thyme. Cover with a lid and slow cook till barley is tender, adding more stock if needed. When barley is cooked, add the cream and Parmesan cheese and cook out for 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste.

    4. Stuff. Line 4 small teacups, acting as molds, with plastic wrap. Line each cup with a drained cabbage leaf, leaving some of the cabbage leaf extending over the edge. Fill the cups with the cooked barley risotto and cover with the overhanging cabbage. Use the plastic wrap to remove the stuffed cabbage from the cup. Twist the plastic wrap around the cabbage/risotto to form a ball.

    5. Serve. Add tomato sauce to the bottom of each dish; serve stuffed cabbage in the center. Serve while hot or reheat in the microwave.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT UPDATE: New Varieties Of Village Harvest Whole Grains

    Last spring, one of our Top Picks Of The Week was Village Harvest, absolutely delicious pre-cooked and flash-frozen whole grains that are ready to eat after a minute in the microwave.

    This brilliant line addresses the need to eat more whole grains while removing the time challenge of cooking them. All you need to do is open the package and put the grains in a microwave-safe bowl.

    It’s just that simple, and we could eat them every day. The only challenge is finding them: We have to get to a Whole Foods Market. Retailers, please take note! (Here’s a store locator.)

    The line originally included Brown Rice; Brown, Red, Wild Rice Medley; Quinoa; “Un” Fried Brown Rice; and Spicy Thai Brown Rice.

    The varieties have been tweaked, and the expanded line now includes:

     

    Serve whole grains in a lettuce cup.
    Photo courtesy Village Harvest.

     

    Open bag, heat in microwave: In one minute
    you have delicious whole grains. Photo
    courtesy Village Harvest.

     
  • Brown, Red & Wild Rice
  • Corn & Black Bean Creations (with brown rice and wild rice)
  • Cranberries & Almond Creations (with barley, quinoa and wheatberries)
  • Farro & Red Rice
  • Golden Quinoa
  • Red Quinoa & Brown Rice
  • Wheatberry & Barley
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    The company also features dozens of recipes that incorporate the quick-cooking grains.

    We “wholly” recommend these delicious grains and promise you’ll love the discovery.

     

    Here’s our original review.

    How Many Types Of Grains Have You Had?

    Check out the different types of rice and a broader view of the different types of grains.

      

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