Take It With a Grain... Recipes

. . . not salt but amaranth, quinoa, spelt, farro. These grains may be new to you, but Susan Spungen’s recipes, filled with good-for-you nutrients and even more flavor, are well worth seeking out

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Kamut Salad with Chickpeas and Olives

Kamut, a grain descended from an ancient variety, consists of large, bronze-colored wheat kernels. High in protein and selenium, it tastes slightly sweet and nutty, has a chewy texture and is best in salads, soups, pilafs and stuffings.

Prep time: 23 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves 6 to 8


1½ cups raw Kamut (or spelt berries)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
1 seedless cucumber, peeled, diced
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup golden raisins
3 carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered lengthwise
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley


1. In a large saucepan, combine Kamut,½ teaspoon salt and an abundant amount of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes, until grain is tender but still firm. Drain well, and let cool.

2. To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, shallot and vinegar. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking, then add remaining ½ teaspoon salt and the pepper. Set aside.

3. Combine the remaining ingredients with the cooked grain, and toss with dressing. Adjust seasonings. This keeps well for several days.

Amaranth Cookies

Tiny, yellowish amaranth seeds have a nutty, slightly peppery flavor, and they’re crunchy when popped. Gluten free and loaded with calcium and iron, the grain contains eight essential amino acids, making it a high-quality protein. Use it as an ingredient in sweets or hot cereals.


Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 18 minutes
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

½ cup whole grain amaranth
¼ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
½ cup dates, coarsely chopped
¼ cup dried cranberries or cherries
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon butter


1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Place a large skillet over high heat, until a drop of water sputters. Add 1 tablespoon of the amaranth to the dry hot skillet, and immediately cover with a splatter guard or glass lid (so you can see the amaranth pop). Shake skillet over high heat for 15 seconds. The amaranth will start popping and turning white. Take skillet off heat, and remove amaranth. Not all of it will be popped, and some unpopped seeds may stick to the mix—that’s OK. Repeat, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you can measure out about 2 cups of the popped amaranth. Combine it with the nuts, seeds, fruit, cinnamon and salt in a lightly greased bowl.

2. Simmer honey for 8 minutes in a medium saucepan over medium heat; immediately remove from heat, and add the butter. Add the honey mixture to the amaranth mixture, and stir with a spatula until combined. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet, and spread with a spatula until the mixture is a slab about ½ inch thick. Let cool. Break or cut into pieces, and serve, or store in an airtight container.


Amaranth photo courtesy of joanna wnuk/Shutterstock.com


Greek Quinoa Bake

Quinoa turns almost translucent when cooked. With nine amino acids, it’s a high-quality source of protein; it’s also gluten free and rich in iron, phosphorus, riboflavin and fiber. Quinoa’s texture and grassy sweetness make it a good choice for salads, casseroles, pilafs and veggie burgers.


Prep time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves 6 to 8


1 (5 ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup Greek yogurt
4 cups slightly undercooked quinoa (1 cup dry, cooked according to package directions)
8 ounces feta, crumbled
3 scallions, thinly sliced (½ cup)
¼ cup chopped dill
Freshly ground pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 375º. Place the spinach in a large saucepan with a pinch of salt and a splash of water, and cook, covered, stirring frequently until completely wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water, squeeze dry, and chop. Set aside.

2. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, andcook until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Whisk together the eggs and yogurt. Combine the onion mixture with the quinoa, feta, scallions, dill and spinach; stir in egg mixture, pepper to taste and ¾teaspoon salt. Mix well. Spread the quinoa mixture evenly in a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Bake until golden brown at edges, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.


Quinoa photo courtesy of joanna wnuk/Shutterstock.com


Freekeh Pilaf with Herbed Chicken

Made by roasting young green grains, freekeh comes cracked or whole. It’s higher in protein, vitamins and minerals than mature grains and ranks low on the glycemic index. Rich in fiber and lutein and with a lightly grassy, smoky flavor and pleasantly chewy texture, freekeh livens up pilafs, salads and veggie burgers.


Prep time: 28 minutes
Cooking time: 65 minutes
Serves 4


4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped


¾ pound mixed wild mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup cracked freekeh
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped


1. To make the chicken: Season the breasts with the salt and pepper, and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Coat with herbes de Provence and rosemary. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; place chicken in the hot pan, skin side down, with a weight on top. Sauté for 10 minutes per side, or until juices run clear.

2. To make the pilaf: In a large skillet over high heat, sauté the wild mushrooms, without crowding, in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil for 7 minutes, until tender. Set aside.

3. Soak the porcini mushrooms in1¼ cups boiling water for 10 minutes. Lift from the liquid, chop, and set aside, reserving the liquid. Pour liquid through a coffee filter to remove grit.

4. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan, and sauté the onion, celery, fennel, porcini mushrooms and rosemary for 10 minutes, until onion is translucent. Add the freekeh; sauté 1 to 2 minutes, then add 1 cup of the reserved liquid, the stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender and liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork, and fold in the wild mushrooms and almonds. Serve alongside the chicken.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Spelt and Broccolini

A shiny, rice-shaped grain with a reddish hue and a sweet, nutty flavor, spelt has been cultivated for the past 9,000 years. Higher in protein than regular wheat and a good source of fiber, this grain tastes best in soups, stews, salads and stuffings.


Prep time: 37 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves 4


½ cup raw spelt berries
1½ teaspoons salt
2 acorn squash
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
5 ounces hot Italian turkey sausage, removed from casing
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 bunch Broccolini, cut into florets, stems finely chopped
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 425º. In a large saucepan, combine the spelt, ½ teaspoon salt and lots of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes, until spelt is tender but still firm. Drain well, and let cool.

2. Split the squash in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Brush inside of the squash with 1 teaspoon olive oil, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, cut side down, on a nonstick baking sheet until golden brown and just tender but still firm, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Brown the sausage in a medium sauté pan, breaking it up with a spoon. Set aside in a bowl. In the same sauté pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme leaves, Broccolini and 2 tablespoons water, and cook, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the Broccolini is crisp-tender.

4. Combine the spelt, ricotta and ¼ cup of the Parmesan. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon saltand ¼ teaspoon pepper; adjustto taste. Stir in the sausage and Broccolini mixture. Fill the squash halves with the mixture (they can be made ahead to this point). Top with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Lower the oven to 375º, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.


Spelt photo courtesy of Elena Schweitzer/Shuttestock.com


Winter Minestrone with Farro

Farro is an heirloom grain that retains its husk, making it a good source of fiber and niacin. It’s also higher in protein and complex carbohydrates than regular wheat. Nutty and chewy, farro can substitute for the rice in risotto.


Prep time: 37 minutes
Cooking time: 70 minutes
Serves 6 to 8


1 cup raw whole grain farro
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 ounces thick-cut pancetta, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 (26 ounce) can diced tomatoes
Parmesan rind
6 cups chicken stock, plus more for thinning
1 bunch Tuscan kale, leaves stripped from stems and chopped
1 (15 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese


1. In a medium saucepan, combine the farro, ½ teaspoon salt and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot, and add the onion, celery, carrots, pan-cetta, garlic and rosemary. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the farro, potato, tomatoes, Parmesan rind and stock. Simmer on medium-low heat until potato is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the kale and beans, and cook 5 to 10 minutes more. Add more stock if needed to thin to the desired consistency. Remove the rind. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Parmesan.


Farro photo courtesy of marekuliasz/Shutterstock.com

Author and food stylist Susan Spungen’s latest book is Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook.


Related: New Ways to Eat Ancient Grains


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First Published Mon, 2012-04-23 18:19

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