Getting reacquainted with Ancient Grains
In our fast paced age of information it is refreshing to engage in the practice of eating slow foods like ancient grains. In fact, the only thing fast about ancient grains are how fast they are catching on right now. They are so popular that Cheerios is actually putting out a cereal with a scant amount of ancient grains in them in hopes to revive their market. (Isn’t that a contradictory? Fast cereal with old slow grains??)
I have been eyeing this ancient grain movement with interest and curiosity. I mean I was cooking these grains back in my hippy momma days where I whipped out millet seed loafs with tomato gravy and handed out spelt cookies to all the neighborhood children in hopes of rescuing them from their Oreos. So this movement isn’t new to all of us, but Maria Speck’s book “Simply Ancient Grains” re-introduces us to these old friends (or new) in an easy and engaging way.
I think the reason I stopped cooking them so much was two fold, they are slow to cook and I have shied away from the highly processed and tainted grains that are low in nutrition and high in carbs. In this book, Maria introduced easy ways of cooking these old slow grains so that you can have them more often and offers fun delicious recipes to get you in the spirit of trying them plus reminded me of their excellent untainted nutrition.
Maria has offered me a new conversation with some old friends and I’m looking forward to making a pot of tea and getting reacquainted by making “barley thumbprints” and “kamut shortbread with hazelnuts”. Or waking up in the morning and enjoying a bowl of “burgundy bulgur with blueberries and orange blossom water” or “coconut buckwheat porridge with cinnamon and buttered dates”. Seriously, after reading this cookbook, it is hard to not want to take out stock in “Bob’s Red Mill” ancient grains. (They carry all of them!)
But to preserve the budget and start the conversation I made the beautiful dish, “cardamom infused black rice porridge with blueberries and pistachios” for breakfast and it was delightful company. (I had the black rice on hand) It struck me as I was eating it, how simple food that has deep history is as nourishing emotionally as it is nutritionally. Thank you Maria Speck for reuniting me (and many others) with some long lost friends.
The only bummer about this beautiful cookbook is that I really really like the pictures of the dishes and even though there are a quite a few lovely pictures some of them are of the vegetable/fruit or grain highlighted in the recipe and wasted a full color page on that. Come on now, if you are going to use expensive color ink on a picture, how bout the recipe at hand? Rant over and off to have another conversation with old friends.
Cardamom infused black rice porridge with blueberries and almonds This porridge is beautiful, fragrant, delicious and earthy. I loved it! Make sure and always use organic rice. I used Lotus Foods brand.
The night before;
¾ cup of black rice
2 whole cardamom pods
1.5 cups of boiling water
In the morning;
1 cup of whole milk, half and half or coconut milk (Which is what I used, so yummy!)
3 TBLS of maple syrup
3/4 tsp of ground cardamom
1 cup of purple berries like blackberries or blueberries, frozen or fresh (I used blackberries)
2 TLS of chopped nuts of choice (I used almonds)
The night before, place your beautiful rice in a heavy little saucepan and pour the boiling water over it, put the lid on and go to bed. Sleep with dreams of whole grains and a purple breakfast. (I did!) The next morning sneak down to make sure the rice is still there. (It should be) You will be surprised to see the beautiful purple water and that the rice seems uncooked. Fear not! Add the one cup of milk or coconut milk, maple syrup, ground cardamom and bring to a boil over medium high heat stirring often, then lower the heat to medium or whatever it takes on your stove to create a lively simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the rice is the softness you desire. (I liked mine slightly chewy) Add the berries and simmer for about 2-4 minutes more or until the berries are warmed and tender. Divide the purple mix between 4- 6 bowls, or 2 hungry ones, and sprinkle with the almonds. Serve with a dollop of yogurt, more milk or maple syrup if desired but I thought it was plenty sweet just like it is. Make sure and take time to smell the beautiful bowl of goodness and chew well.