September is National Whole Grains Month, an occasion to revisit some oldies but goodies.
Thanks to King Arthur Baking (formerly King Arthur Flour) for this primer on eight* ancient grains.
“Ancient grains” is a marketing term used to describe a category of grains and pseudocereals, that are purported to have been minimally changed by selective breeding over recent millennia.
They are distinguished from more widespread cereals such as corn, rice and modern varieties of wheat, which are the products of thousands of years of selective breeding [source].
King Arthur sells the flour versions ground from ancient grains. They’ve provided the following information, including details on how the flours “bake up.”
Here are their recipes for using the different flours to bake banana bread, cinnamon bread, muffins, pancakes and scones.
The whole grains from which these flours are ground make delicious grain bowls, sides, salads, or substitutes for rice in any of your recipes (check out Bob’s Red Mill or Whole Foods to buy the whole grains).
More than half of them are gluten free: amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and teff.
Amaranth is versatile, full of whole-grain nutrition, and enhances the flavor of many recipes. It’s naturally gluten-free. Like quinoa, it contains all nine essential amino acids plus lysine, a protein missing in most grains. Amaranth is a good source of iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
> Flavor: Earthy and peppery.
Barley is exceptionally high in fiber and low in starch, making it one of the lowest glycemic index (GI) grains you can use. With three times the soluble fiber of oats, it’s a delicious, nutty-tasting way to add nutrition to baked goods.
> Flavor: Subtly sweet and nutty.
Buckwheat is hearty, gluten-free, and a good source of magnesium, copper, and dietary fiber. Enjoy its health benefits, but also turn to it for its bold, nutty flavor.
> Flavor: Bold, toasty, and rich.
Kamut is an ancient variety of durum, with a grain twice the size of modern-day wheat. It contains some gluten; but the gluten format is different from modern wheat, so it may be digestible by people with slight gluten sensitivities. It’s a good source of protein and dietary fiber. In the U.S., the commercial name for kamut is Khorasan wheat (here’s why).
> Flavor: Rich and buttery.
Millet is packed with nutrition for flavorful, healthier baked goods. Naturally gluten-free, it adds mild flavor to both sweet and savory recipes. You might recognize whole millet: The small yellow seeds are often used in bird seed mixtures.
> Flavor: Sweet and corn-like.
Quinoa adds whole-grain nutrition and essential amino acids to baked goods. Naturally gluten-free, quinoa is one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids including lysine. Quinoa is also one of the grain world’s best sources of potassium.
> Flavor: Bold and nutty.
Spelt is an ancient strain of wheat. It’s high in protein and has a nutty, complex flavor that’s sweeter and lighter than that of whole wheat. Gluten-containing spelt is a good source of fiber, iron, and manganese.
> Flavor: Sweet with a taste of whole wheat.
Teff is a whole grain, and also a versatile, gluten-free flour that adds whole-grain nutrition to baked goods. This ancient East African grain is used to make the Ethiopian flatbread, injera. It’s a good source of iron and fiber.
Recommendation: It’s a chore to cook and peel fresh beets. Instead, we buy them cooked and peeled from Beetology.
Ingredients For 4-6 Servings
This recipe was created by Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog. If you’d like to serve it warm or hot, begin the assembly as soon as the kamut is fully cooked. Otherwise, chill the cooked grains for at least two hours before proceeding.
 Amaranth, naturally gluten-free. Like quinoa, it contains all nine essential amino acids and lysine, a protein missing in most grains (all grain photos © King Arthur Baking).
1. COOK the kamut. Hannah uses the pasta method, which means adding 1 cup of grains to 4 or 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 – 60 minutes until the grains are tender but still toothsome, and drain off the excess water. This ensures the perfect texture every time without the threat of having grains stick and burn on the bottom of the pot.
2. MEASURE out what you need for the recipe and store any extra in an airtight container in the fridge. It keeps well for up to a week.
3. TOSS the cooked kamut, kale, onion, mint, grapes and beets together in a large bowl.
4. WHISK together in a separate bowl the oil, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard, adding salt to taste. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and grains, mixing thoroughly to coat. Top with crumbled cheese and serve.
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