Thursday, February 14, 2013

Exploring Exotic Grains  

As many of you have noticed, our lifestyles are changing and taking on a more healthy approach. That being said, Chefs and Culinarians are trying to find new healthy menu options for our guests. One option gaining momentum is the use of exotic grains. In this article we will look at some of the grains and finish with a delicious, health and nutritious salad. 
Farro is the whole grain from a particular wheat species. It can be traced back hundred of years to many parts of the world including the mountainous regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo.

There is a long standing debate as to whether couscous is a grain or a pasta.  We'll save that argument for another post. It is mainly found in Middle Eastern countries and comes in several sizes. Israeli couscous is the largest in the couscous family.

Wheat berries
Wheat Berries
These are the entire grain of wheat with the husk removed. It is the primary ingredient in the Eastern Europe Christmas porridge kutya. It can be cooked an eaten as a side dish or tossed with salads.

Amaranth is not actually a grain but is lumped into this category. It is actually the seed of the amaranth plant. It can be cooked like a porridge but I prefer this. Place the amaranth in a sauté pan with a little clarified butter over medium heat. While stirring, the seeds will begin to pop like popcorn. It can then be sprinkled over salad for a nutty flavor and an interesting crunchy texture.

Originating in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru, quinoa is one of the hippest grains currently being used. When cooked like rice, it can be used in a variety of ways.

Quinoa is considered a super food, of which there's only a handful. It contains all 5 essential amino acids that we need for survival. In short, if you were stranded on a dessert island and all you had was a bag of quinoa, you would survive!
Quinoa comes in a variety of colors and favors. Below is a recipe for a delicious Red Quinoa Salad that will sure to be a crowd pleaser at your dinner table.  What's more, it's good for you.

Enjoy the salad and healthy eating!

Chef Joe

Below is a video, presented by Chef Joe, as he discusses the exotic grains mentioned in this posting. At the conclusion of the video, you may continue browsing this posting. 

Click on the arrow to start the video.


Red Quinoa Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
Quinoa Salad
1lb.  Red Quinoa
1 qt. Vegetable Broth
1 Tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbl. Minced Garlic 
1 pint Red Grape Tomatoes, Halved lengthwise
1/4 cup Green Onions, sliced 1/8" on the bias
1/4 cup Chopped Cilantro
1/2 cup Chopped Mint
1/2 cup Chopped Italian Parsley
1 Tbl. Lemon Zest
1 cup Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette 

  • Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and run under cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well.
  • Combine the vegetable broth, olive oil and minced garlic in a small stock pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  
  • Add the drained quinoa and stir well. Return to a boil and cook the grain, stirring occasionally, until it is tender (approx. 20-25 minutes). Drain the excess liquid from the quinoa and transfer to a sheet tray to cool.
  • Once cooled, place the cooked quinoa in a mixing bowl. Add the chopped herbs, lemon zest and the vinaigrette and fold together. 
  • Next, add the grape tomatoes and gently fold to incorporate. 
  • Serve as a side dish with grilled chicken or scallops.
Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
1/2 cup Roasted Garlic Cloves
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbl. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 Tbl. Ground Cumin
2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
2 tsp. Ground Coriander
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
A few turns of Fresh Ground Black Pepper
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Condiment all ingredients except for the olive oil in the carafe of a blender. Blend on high speed to form a paste. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil. Transfer to a small bowl and reserve for later use.

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