Mixed Grain Perfect for Easter Dinner Menu

Freiman is a New York-based food writer

Interesting and unusual, this combination of grains and legumes is something different from rice or potato to accompany main courses of lamb, pork, veal or chicken.

Nutritious, fibrous and far more delicious than anyone would suspect, this mixture of wild rice, lentils, barley and cracked wheat (also called bulgur) would even be a welcome addition to an Easter dinner menu.

If this mixture sounds a bit strange, it may be because many of us are unfamiliar with these grains.

Although I remember my grandmother adding barley to soup, I had never cooked this grain, which today is most often used in making beer. Barley requires an overnight soak in cold water before cooking, and it takes about 1 hours to soften in cooking liquid.

Common Ingredient in Mideast

Bulgur, or cracked wheat from which some of the outer coating has been removed, is parboiled and cracked, or chopped into granular pieces similar in size to wheat germ. Bulgur is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking, notably in tabbouleh salad for which it is soaked in hot water. Here, bulgur is simply stirred into the pot.

Wild rice is an aquatic grass gathered by various North American Indian tribes. Its nutty flavor and firm texture add crunch to the grain mixture.

Lentils were mentioned in the Old Testament, so it is safe to say they have been eaten for nearly 2,000 years. An Egyptian variety of red lentils could be used in this mixture, but yellow lentils are most commonly found in supermarkets and need only to be rinsed before cooking.

The food processor quickly minces the parsley garnish as well as the garlic, onion and green onion mixture used to flavor the grains. Consecutive processing is the technique used to mince garlic, onions and green onions without emptying the container. This is a useful processing method that is applicable to many recipes.


1/2 cup pearl barley

2 1/2 cups cold water

1/4 cup firmly packed stemmed parsley leaves

3 medium cloves garlic, peeled

1 large red onion, peeled and cubed

5 green onions, trimmed

1/2 cup cubed ham or bacon

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup yellow lentils, rinsed

1/4 cup wild rice

1/4 cup medium bulgur

Salt, pepper

Place barley in mixing bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside overnight.

Insert metal blade in processor. Process parsley until minced. Wrap and reserve for garnish.

Mince garlic by adding to machine with motor on. Add red onion. Cut green onions into 1-inch lengths and add to processor. Coarsely chop onion mixture with 1-second pulses, then set aside. Coarsely chop ham with half-second pulses, then transfer to 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven.

Add olive oil to saucepan and cook ham over medium heat to render fat. Add garlic mixture and cook over medium heat until softened, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Drain and add barley to onion mixture. Add 2 cups broth, 1 cup water and oregano. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in lentils, wild rice, remaining 2 cups broth and remaining 1 cup water. Cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir in bulgur. Cover and simmer 25 minutes longer, until all grains are tender. Uncover and simmer 5 to 7 minutes longer or until most of liquid has been absorbed. Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add reserved parsley. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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