Grain Pilaf – Another quick meal

Millet, steel cut oats, wheat berries, tricolor quinoa, farro

We can all use a little extra fiber and nutrition in our diets, and grains are a delicious way to do this.

Cooked grains on hand make a quick meal

Brown rice and sauteed vegetables

I start my week by cooking a grain, any grain. I then have it in the fridge to use in soups, salads and my favorite, pilaf, for a side dish with just about any meal. There are as many recipes for “pilaf” as there are cooks. Pilaf (pilou is the British term) is technically an Indian or Asian dish of steamed rice with vegetables and meat. But you can make it whatever you want. It’s simply a grain with vegetables added, usually eaten warm but just as delicious at room temperature or cold. Cooked lentils or other beans make a great addition to pump up the protein levels.

Many, many types of grains are out there

The choice of grains is endless these days. You can get millet, quinoa, a plethora of types of rice, farro, Kamut, wheat berries, barley, triticale and umpteen other types. Many are available in bulk at market stores, so you can experiment with only a little bit at first to discover the ones you like. Kashi sells a box of mixed grains they call Seven Grain Pilaf. It has oats, brown rice, rye, hard red wheat, triticale, barley, buckwheat, and sesame seeds.

Grains and lentils

Some grains take an hour or more to cook although an instant-pot certainly shortens this time. When I’m in a time pinch and don’t have any cooked up in the fridge, I turn to bulgur, millet or quinoa which cook in twenty minutes.

Toast your grain

Before you cook any grain, toast it first. You will be amazed at the difference in flavor that a toasty browning gives your grain dish. Simply heat a non-stick or cast iron pan, drizzle with a little olive oil and stir in the dry grain. Stir over medium heat until the grain begins to brown, usually about 5-10 minutes. Then proceed with regular cooking. Use a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid so you can cover if the directions call for it. After cooking, be sure to put on the lid to let it finish steaming.

For the simplest pilaf, start with your choice of cooked grain. Chop and saute any vegetables you want to add and mix with the cooked grain. Add feta or parmesan cheese if you wish and nuts, seeds and even dried fruit. Make it your own creation. You can have a different dish every night!

Bulgur with roasted vegetables and feta cheese

Bulgur Pilaf

(feel free to substitute your choice of cooked grain)

1 c. cooked bulgur
½ t. salt
1 T. olive oil
¼ c. diced onions
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ c. diced sweet red pepper
¼ c. grated carrot
¼ c. grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute vegetables until tender. Mix with bulgur and parmesan; season to taste. Warm gently or serve at room temperature.

This chart is simply a guideline and until you are familiar with cooking a particular grain, keep a close eye on it. If it is too chewy for your taste add more water and cook a little longer. You can also use broth in place of water.

Grain (1 cup) water cooking time

Barley3 cups45 min – 1 hour
Brown rice2 cups1 hour
Buckwheat groats2 cups15-25 min.
Bulgur wheat2 cups15-20 min.
Cracked wheat2 cups25 min.
Millet 3 cups25-45 min.
Quinoa 2 cups15-20
Rolled oats 2 cups15 min.
Steel cut oats 4 cup30-45 min.
Wheat berries  3 cups1 hour, 30 min.

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted mushrooms
Roasted Broccoli

Nothing is happening in the garden today because of the cold. So, I get to cook – my favorite recreation. I love looking in the crisper to see just what’s there, and then pulling out vegetables like mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and even one of the last eggplants of the season. I’m going to roast vegetables!

Roasting brings out the flavor

Roasting vegetables makes them sublime, giving them that rich “umami” flavor everyone is talking about. All you need are fresh-picked vegetables, good quality olive oil, salt, a sharp knife and a roasting pan. Depending on the vegetable, most will roast to caramelized goodness in about 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Drizzle them with olive oil first, roll around, and then salt when they come out of the oven. Then slice into chunks and add to rice, pasta or simply enjoy plain – a perfect side or main dish. A sprinkling of feta or Parmesan cheese and maybe a drizzle of sriracha sauce complete the dish.

Roasted Broccoli and Carrots with Farro

1 c. broccoli florets

½ pkg. baby carrots

3 T. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

½ small onion, sliced

½ c. cooked farro, quinoa, rice, bulgur or millet (cook according to package instructions)

1 t. balsamic vinegar

¼ c. Parmesan cheese

1/4 c. toasted pecans, pepitas or sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 375. In a sided roasting pan (broiler pan works well), add the carrots and drizzle with 1 t. olive oil. Roast until a fork inserts with ease, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, salt generously and put aside in a bowl. Add broccoli to pan, drizzle with 1 T. olive oil and roast until crisp-tender, about 30 minutes. Salt and add to carrots.

Add the last tablespoon olive oil to a saute pan and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add the farro and heat through. Coarsely chop the vegetables and return to the bowl. Add the farro mixture to the vegetables, sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar and parmesan. Top with nuts or seeds and serve warm or at room temperature.

                                                                                ©Kate Jerome 2019