Go with the grains

A new year - new beginnings! This is when we usually ask ourselves what we most want of life - how can we make some changes in our lives, how can we best move ahead with new ideas. Sounds so simple, but it isn't. Perhaps we should start with one thing at a time.

We've been hearing for years now that we should eat lighter foods, unrefined foods, "real" foods rich in nutrients, fiber and complex carbohydrates; foods low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. In other words, grains, and there's no better time than now.

A new grain cookery has been arising for some time now. You will find in food columns and in restaurants imaginatively prepared grain dishes such as vegetable-studded millet pilafs, gingered bulgur, saffron risotto, couscous timbales and polenta lasagna.

Born in the Middle East, bulgur is wheat berries that are parboiled, then dried and some of the bran removed before being cracked to form this grain.



2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 cup bulgur

2 cups chicken broth

dash white pepper

1/4 cup finely diced carrots

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Heat olive oil over medium heat; add onion and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add bulgur; stir until toasted, about 3 minutes. Stir in broth and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Add carrot and celery; reduce heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 13 minutes. Remove from heat and add herbs. Serve to four.

- from my files

Quinoa has been a staple in the Andes for about 500 years. The best quality is being imported from Bolivia but now it is being grown in the United States. Quinoa has a grassy flavor and is a powerhouse providing the eight essential amino acids and it is rich in calcium and vitamins.




1 cup quinoa, cooked in 2 cups water as you would cook rice.

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon flax oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1 large carrot, shredded

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 cup peas

seasoned salt and pepper to taste

bunch of cilantro, finely chopped

3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Prepare the dressing by stirring together the oils, lemon juice and garlic. Stir in the cooked quinoa, vegetables, cilantro and pecans. Makes 4 cups.

- from Vim, Vigor and Veggies cooking class, April 6, 2008, Sequim Seventh-day Adventist Church

Archaeologists have found evidence that Stone Age cooks were big fans of barley. A favorite of the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, this grain most commonly is eaten in soups and is one of the hardiest crops to farm.


4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 cup chopped carrot

1/2 cup chopped peeled turnip

1/2 cup chopped and peeled celeriac

2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger

2 cups cooked basmati or other long-grain rice

2 cups cooked pearl barley

1 cup drained canned pinto beans

3 cups torn spinach

1 tablespoon soy sauce

salt to taste

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, carrot, turnip, celeriac and ginger and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in rice, barley and beans; cook 2 minutes. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil, spinach, soy sauce and salt; cook just until spinach begins to wilt. Serves 4.

- from my files

Rice. Almost everyone eats rice. And the number of varieties available has exploded over the past 10 years, partly due to our appetite for ethnic cuisines in which rice always has been big and due to the move toward healthier eating as well.


1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 small onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup uncooked long-grain rice

21/4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in olive oil in large pan over medium heat; add onion and sauté 4-5 minutes; add garlic, pine nuts, raisins and rice; cook, stirring constantly, 3-4 minutes. Add water and salt; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 17-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in parsley. Serve to 6-8.

- from my files

One of the keys to a healthful, balanced diet is making grains, fruits and vegetables the foundation of meals, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent dietary guidelines. Sounds easy enough in theory, but in this meat-and-potatoes nation, we may need some help.

Check out Friends of the Fields Web site at Local ingredients are healthier, fresher and make your meals taste better! Make sure you have the best local ingredients from our productive local farms by supporting Friends of the Fields in its efforts to preserve local farmland today.

Marian Platt's column appears the first and third week of each month in the Sequim Gazette. She can be reached at 683-4691 or via e-mail at



11/2 pounds stew beef

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

5 cups beef stock

1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme and marjoram

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 cup pearl barley

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Trim all of the fat from the beef; cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat oil in large skillet and sauté the onion; add the beef cubes and brown on all sides. Transfer the onion and beef to a 3-quart ungreased casserole and set aside. Combine the stock, herbs and barley in the skillet and bring to a boil. Pour the stock mixture over the onion and beef mixture, cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven 1 hour. Garnish with parsley and serve in shallow soup bowls with crusty French bread to four.

- from The Old Farmer's Almanac, 2009

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