Ancient waves of grain

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kamut and amaranth.

Though they are frequently referred to as "new grains," farro, quinoa, kamut and amaranth are actually some of the oldest foods on earth. Ancient civilizations grew them and revered them enough to often use them as money and as offerings for sacrificial ceremonies. Today, these flavorful, protein-packed grains are again finding an avid audience. They line the shelves of natural food stores, gourmet shops and supermarkets. They appear on the menus of upscale, trendy restaurants and fill pages of numerous cookbooks and articles. Here's a run-down on each of these fascinating old-world grains and some of the wonderful ways you can enjoy them.
Farro

They say an army marches on its stomach, and it's quite likely the great Roman legions marched steadfastly through Italy knowing that their next meal would be a hearty bowl of farro. After centuries of gracing the rustic tables of Tuscany and parts of northem Italy, this rather nondescript grain is popping up in dishes served at trendy Italian restaurants on these shores.

Farro (pronounced FAHR-oh) is not wheat, but a plant and grain all its own. A farro grain looks like light brown rice and has a nutty taste that's reminiscent of oats and barley. Lighter than other whole grains, farro contains a starch similar to Arborio rice, which releases a creamy, binding liquid when cooked, hence it's attraction to restaurateurs who often use it in risotto-type dishes. Farro may also be ground into flour and used to make pasta and baked goods.

Rich in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E, farro is easily digested and low in gluten, which makes it a good choice for those who are wheat-sensitive. The downside to this wonder grain is its price Imported from Italy, it costs on average $5.00 per pound. And while it's not widely stocked, it is well worth the search (see Source Guide, p. 41). Some recipes will give spelt or wheat berries as an alternative, but this is a misguided suggestion that can create chaos for the cook.
Amaranth

The ancient Aztecs were so fond of amaranth, they harvested bushels of this tiny seed-like grain, which they then sent to Emperor Montezuma in tribute. High in protein (one cup contains 28 grams), amaranth also has a remarkable lifespan. Whereas most grains, like wheat or corn, remain viable for about 10 years, amaranth lasts for centuries--when archaeologists planted the seeds they found scattered at an Aztec ruin, they took root successfully.

To cook amaranth, toast seeds in a dry skillet until they pop like miniature popcorn--they add a crunchy, mildly spicy flavor to soups, stews and vegetables. Or just eat them by the handful as a snack.

Cooking amaranth with water or broth creates a mixture similar to grits that makes a delicious side dish or stuffing. And, like farro, amaranth also can be ground into flour--a good choice for those with wheat allergies because it's low in gluten.
Kamut

The word kamut (pronounced KAH-moot) comes from the ancient Egyptian word for wheat. Approximately two or three times the size of whole wheat berries, ounce for ounce kamut has a higher nutritional pro' file than most grains (one cup contains 24 grams protein and 20 grams fiber); it's also low in fat (less than 3 grams per cup) and is easy to digest. With its pleasant chewiness and distinct buttery taste, kamut can be used in salads or ground into flour and used in baked dishes or made into delicious pasta. Also low in gluten, it can successfully replace one third of the flour in a bread recipe.

This grain grows well domestically and is readily available in natural food stores. Whenever possible, buy the grain from the refrigerated section of stores and keep it in the refrigerator at home.
Quinoa

Although new to North America, where it's grown in the Pacific Northwest, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has been cultivated in the South American Andes for thousands of years. Known as the "mother grain" and regarded as sacred by the Incas, it is still a major staple for the Quechua Indians of Peru and Bolivia.

Looking like a cross between a sesame seed and millet grain, quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. It also is higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains.

The quinoa you'll find readily available in health food stores and supermarkets, has been laboriously scrubbed free of saponin, a sticky substance that coats the seed. However, it is recommended that you thoroughly rinse it again before cooking. Properly cooked quinoa should be light and fluffy with a lovely nutty quality and slight crunch. Take care not to add too much water or overcook the grain as it can quickly turn to mush.

Preparing these grains is easy and their unique flavors lend variety to any vegetarian dish. The following recipes can help you get started in making thoroughly modern meals from these ancient, revered grains.
Tuscan Farro and White Bean Soup

6 SERVINGS

VEGAN

On a recent visit to Tuscany and the glorious walled city of Lucca, I sampled this wonderfully satisfying soup. Some recipes using this grain suggest overnight soaking, but I have never found it necessary. However, to save on preparation time, you could substitute canned beans for the dried. Serve with crusty Tuscan bread.

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 medium leek (white and pale green part),
rinsed well and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup diced peeled potatoes
14-oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage or
2 tsp. dried
2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary or
2 tsp. dried
2 Tbs. chopped fresh marjoram or
2 tsp. dried
4 to 6 cups vegetable stock or broth
1 cup farro, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked or canned white or cranberry
beans (rinsed if canned)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

IN LARGE POT, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion and leek are softened, about 10 minutes. Add celery, potatoes, tomatoes, sage, rosemary and marjoram and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Add stock and bring soup to a boil. Add farro and beans. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until farro is tender, 35 to 40 minutes. (If soup becomes too thick, add a little hot water.) Serve warm.

PER SERVING: 302 CAL.; 11 G PROT.; 6G TOTAL FAT (1 G SAT. FAT); 52G CAR8.; 0 CHOL.; 1,089 MG SOD.; 8G FIBER.
Spanish-Style Stuffed Tomatoes

6 SERVINGS

LACTO/VEGAN

Cooked with water or broth, amaranth releases a starch that creates a "sauce" similar to grits. It makes an excellent stuffing for a variety of vegetables, particularly when combined with the sweet flavoring of raisins and pine nuts.

1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup amaranth
1 cup vegetable stock or broth
1 tsp. butter or soy margarine
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 cup hot salsa
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 large ripe tomatoes or 8 medium Plain yogurt
and cilantro sprigs for garnish

IN MEDIUM-SIZE SAUCEPAN, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add amaranth and stir well. Add stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until amaranth grain is tender and water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and stir in butter until melted. Stir in cilantro, salsa, cinnamon, raisins, pine nuts, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. From each tomato, cut a thick slice from end opposite stem and discard. Using a teaspoon, scoop out seeds and core; discard. Arrange tomato shells in baking dish.

Spoon amaranth mixture into tome to shells. Bake until tomatoes are soft but still retain their shape, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm topped with yogurt and cilantro if desired.

PER SERVING: 325 CAL.; 11 G PROT.; 13G TOTAL FAT (2G SAT. FAT); 49G CARB.; 2MG CHOL.; 510MG SOD.; 8G FIBER.
Mushroom Farrotto with Chunky Tomato Sauce

6 SERVINGS

LACTO/VEGAN

Unlike Arborio rice in risotto, farro doesn't become gummy; instead, it retains its tender, distinct bite, even if it sits a while after cooking. Serve with a tossed green salad.

5 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter or soy margarine
3 cups chopped portobello mushrooms
(see glossary, p. 110)
2 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
(see glossary, p. 110)
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups farro, rinsed and drained
1 cup dry white wine (optional)
6 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Chunky Tomato Sauce

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
14-oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

IN MEDIUM SAUCEPAN, bring stock to a boil. Reduce heat to low.

In large saucepan, heat oil and I tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add both mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushroom mixture to bowl and set aside. Add remaining tablespoon of butter and onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add farro to pan and stir to coat with oil. Add wine and cook, stirring until liquid is absorbed, about I minute. Add 1 cup hot stock to pan and stir in mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, adding more hot stock as it is absorbed, until farro is tender but still firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make tomato sauce. In small saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.

To serve, stir grated cheese, if using, into farro and season with salt and pepper. Spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired. Top each serving with tomato sauce.

PER SERVING: 365 CAL.; 9G PROT.; 19G TOTAL FAT (4G SAT. FAT); 45G CARB.; 6MG CHOL.; 687 MG SOD.; 11G FIBER.
Cabbage Stir-fry with Popped Amaranth

4 SERVINGS

VEGAN

When popped, amaranth has a mild toasted sesame flavor which is perfect in a stir-fry vegetable dish such as this. Pop only the amount of grain you need because leftovers will not keep.

1/4 cup amaranth
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
3 to 4 cups shredded white cabbage
2 small leeks (white part only), rinsed
well and sliced thinly (1 cup)
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and shredded (1 cup)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

TO POP AMARANTH: Place heavy small skillet over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of amaranth and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 10 to 15 seconds or until most of the seeds have popped and turned white. Transfer to a bowl and continue cooking remaining seeds 1 tablespoon at a time. Set aside.

In wok or large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add cabbage, leeks and bell pepper and cook, stirring constantly, just until wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice. Transfer to warm serving dish and sprinkle with popped amaranth. Serve right away.

PER SERVING: 147 CAL.; 5G PROT.; 8G TOTAL FAT (1 G SAT. FAT); 17G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 53MG SOD.; 6G FIBER.

VARIATION: For a more pronounced Asian flavor, stir 2 tablespoons light soy sauce into vegetables with lemon juice.
Kamut Kitchiri

6 SERVINGS

VEGAN

Grains have always played a large role in mid-Eastern cooking with each country choosing its own way of flavoring. Here, borrowing from the rich and robust cuisine of India, the combination of kamut and lentils makes a wonderful supper or brunch dish.

1 cup kamut, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
1 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 bay leaves
3-inch stick cinnamon
2 tsp. tomato paste
3 cups vegetable stock or broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnish

IN MEDIUM SAUCEPAN, combine kamut and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until grains are chewy but not hard in center, about 2 hours. Remove from heat, drain if necessary and transfer to medium bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan, combine lentils and enough boiling water to cover. Set aside 30 minutes. Drain.

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, 5 minutes. Add spices, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add kamut and lentils. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro if desired.

PER SERVING: 190 CAL.; 8G PROT.; 6G TOTAL FAT (0 SAT. FAT); 31 G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 502MG SOD.; 6G FIBER.
Kamut, Beet and Orange Salad with Dijon Dressing

6 SERVINGS

VEGAN

The great-great granddaddy of grains, kamut also is known as Egyptian wheat but it should not be confused with ferik, a green, unripened wheat popular in the Middle East. To reduce the cooking time of the kamut by half, soak overnight in cold water. Drain and cook as directed for 1 hour.

1 cup kamut, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
3 medium oranges, peeled and segmented
2 cups shredded raw beets
1 cup chopped green onions
Salt to taste

Dijon Mustard Dressing

2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

IN MEDIUM SAUCEPAN, combine kamut and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until grains are chewy but not hard in center, about 2 hours. Remove from heat, drain if necessary and transfer to medium bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, make dressing. In small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients until blended.

In large bowl, gently toss kamut, oranges, beets, green onions and salt. Whisk dressing and pour over salad; toss to coat. Allow to stand at room temperature 20 minutes for flavors to develop.

PER SERVING: 243 CAL.; 6G PROT.; 10G TOTAL FAT (1G SAT FAT); 38G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 77MG SOD.; 8G FIBER.
Country Quinoa Salad with "Creamy" Mint Dressing

6 SERVINGS

LACTO/VEGAN

When you want to turn a simple salad into a substantial dish, adding quinoa is the answer. Its delicate flavor takes well to leafy greens and light dressings. Toasting the grains in a dry skillet before cooking, adds a rich, nutty flavor.

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock or broth
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
Salt to taste
3 cups shredded Romaine lettuce
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 cups peeled chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Creamy Mint Dressing

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or silken tofu
5 Tbs. plain low-fat yogurt
2/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

IN MEDIUM SAUCEPAN, bring stock to a boil. Add quinoa and salt if desired. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, make dressing: In food processor or blender, combine garlic, mustard, lemon juice, mint, goat cheese or tofu and yogurt and process until smooth. With motor running, add oil in a thin, steady stream until well blended. Season with salt and pepper.

In large bowl, combine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and onions. Add quinoa and toss to mix. Serve dressing separately. PER PER SERVING WITH 2 TBS. DRESSING: 227 CAL.; 10G PROT.; 6G TOTAL FAT (1G SAT. FAT); 36G CARB.; 2MG CHOL.; 470MG SOD.; 4G FIBER.
GRAINS OF TRUTH
To Salt or Not to Salt

Both amaranth and kamut should be cooked without salt to ensure the even absorption of water. Add salt after cooking for best results.
Washing and Soaking

All grains should be rinsed and dried except amaranth, which is too tiny. Rinse grains in cold water until the water is almost clear, then drain well before using.
Storing

Ideally, grains should be stored in the refrigerator from the start, which means they should be in the refrigerator when you buy them. If you can't find refrigerated grains, try to buy them from reputable stores that have a rapid turn over. Keep the grains for up to 4 months in sealable plastic bags. They should have no discernible odor. A musty smell indicates they may have fumed rancid and should be discarded. Kamut, Beet and Orange Salad with Dijon Dressing
SOURCE GUIDE

If your natural food store does not have
these grains, you can order from the
following gourmet food stores:

Dean & DeLuca
560 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
(800) 221-7714

Zingerman's
422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor MI 48104
(313) 769-1625

Balducci's
424 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY;
(212) 673-2600

PHOTO (COLOR): Kamut, Best and Orange Salad with Dijon Dressing

38n1.jpgTuscan Farro and White Bean Soup

39n1.jpgSpanish-Style Stuffed-Tomatoes

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By Sarah Bush

Sarah Bush is a food writer and cookbook author who divides her time between New York city and London.

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