One more study argues that eating more whole grains contributes to better health. That no longer seems to be a question. But for many what might be still a question is how to actually make that happen in a way that seems pleasurable, not punishing.
The good news is that treated with a modicum of respect, whole grains are, in fact, delicious. And they adapt well to a wide range of uses, everything from soups to salads.
I'm particularly fond of them when incorporated into the latter, where they're so flexible they can be thought of as a kind of casserole for the health-minded. (Just substitute olive oil for mushroom soup.) Barley, farro and couscous are hearty and satisfying enough for a simple dinner, as the dishes using them usually can be made with odds and ends from the refrigerator. And they taste terrific.
The first thing you need to do with all grains, is give them a good toasting over medium-high heat in a dry pan. You’ll know when they’re ready when they smell warm and nutty.
Here are a few grains to get you started. Note that bulgur and quick-cooking couscous need only soaking in hot water after they’ve been toasted. Resist the urge to add raw grains to soups; cook them first. This way the free starch that comes off the grain during cooking won’t cloud the broth.
And once you’ve mastered the basics, here are some recipes to use.
Bulgur: Add 1 1/2 cups of boiling water for every cup of grain and soak until tender. Chewy, slightly vegetal.
Couscous (quick cooking): Add 1 1/4 cups of boiling water for every cup of grain and soak until tender. Soft, wheaty.
Israeli couscous: Allow 2 cups of water for every cup of grain, simmer 5 to 7 minutes. Chewy and wheaty.
Millet: Allow 2 1/2 cups of water for every cup of grain, simmer 20 to 25 minutes. Slightly chewy, slightly vegetal.
Pearl barley, farro: Allow 3 cups of water for every cup of grain, simmer 40 to 45 minutes. Chewy, earthy.
Quinoa: Must be thoroughly rinsed first. Allow 1 3/4 cups of water for every cup of grain, simmer 30 minutes. Tender, vegetal.
Wheat berry: Cook like pasta in abundant boiling water, simmer 1 hour. Chewy, earthy.