Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Few Great Grains.

I'm kind of obsessed with grains right now.  The above picture is the superfresh vintage tin I store all of my grains in, given to me by my mother.  I remember she kept rice in it when I was a child and was going to toss the tin, but I couldn't let that happen- so now it sits in my cupboard and makes me smile every time I'm cooking the good stuff.  We don't eat grains everyday in our house, but at least once or twice a week as a main component to either lunch or dinner dishes.  Grains are one of the world's most nutritious staple food.  They are a good source of protein and carbohydrate, contain valuable minerals and are also high in fiber.  I suggest keeping a variety of whole and refined grains in your pantry to use, especially in a pinch or for last minute meal ideas.

Storing Grains
Storing white rice-  Keep white rice in an airtight container stored in a cool, dark place.  Whole, polished rice will store well for about one year if kept at room temperature.  Ground rice will keep for up to six months.
Storing whole grains-  Store whole grains for a maximum of of six months before use.  After this time, the oil content of unrefined grains turns rancid from exposure to heat, light and moisture.
Mixing grains-  Brown rice and wild rice can be stored and cooked together.  They require similar cooking times, and they look interesting when mixed together in risotto and pilaf-style dishes.

Marking Quantities
Store rice in a clear, straight-sided container that is marked off in 1/2 cup measures.  Use the measure guide to pour out the correct amount of rice.  Cook white rice with twice its volume of water- 1 cup water for every 1/2 cup rice.

Measuring A Portion
Containers such as coffee jars can be used to store rice or other types of grain.  Choose a container with a lid that holds approximately 1/4 cup of rice, and which will therefore enable you to measure out rice portions quickly for cooking.  This easy step speeds up the process (great for quick, single servings) and eliminates extra dishes to be done.

As I've told you all before, our favorite grain is Arborio rice-- we love risottos.  But check out these other common types that are readily available (and tasty!) at your local grocery store...

Long-grain rice.  This may be brown or white, and it has a slim, long grain.   A common, useful  staple.
Short-grain rice.  Short-grain rice is soft when cooked.  It is ideal for rice pudding.
Basmati rice.  This is a very flavorful, long-grain rice, often used in Indian and Persian dishes.
Glutinous rice.  Used mainly in Chinese dishes, this round-grain rice has a sticky texture.
Arborio rice.  This medium-grain rice absorbs more liquid than other types of rice.  Used primarily for classic risotto.
Wild rice.  This grain is the seed of a wild aquatic grass.  One of my favorites paired with seafood.
Cracked wheat.  A processed wheat, this is also called bulgur.  Best served warm, with fruits or veggies.  
Couscous.  This is a processed grain made from semolina.  Wonderful tossed with fresh , cool vegetables.
Quinoa.  Say KEEN-wah.  A whole grain with a slightly crunchy, nutty flavor.  
These are just a sample of the wide variety of grains available out there.  I encourage everyone to get cooking and give a new grain a try-- you might be pleasantly surprised but the flavors you discover.  If you are living in the bay area, I find that Whole Foods has a huge selection of grains, along with the Berkeley Bowl and Berkeley Bowl West.  Trader Joe's carries basics as well, along with stores like the Nugget Market.  Another good suggestion for adventurous grain lovers is to find a local Asian or Latino supermarket such as 99 Ranch Market , which are always filled to the brim with hard-to-find, delicious, unusual grains.

If you have a great grain recipe you'd like to share, let me know and I can post it for all to enjoy!

Happy Tuesday,

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