“It is one thing to want to eat ancient grains, but entirely another to actually put them on the table given our crazy busy lives. […] How can you bring these supremely nourishing grains onto your plate every day without spending a good part of your day in the kitchen?”
Sound familiar? Then Award-winning cookbook author Maria Speck’s latest book Simply Ancient Grains is for you! Raised in Greece and Germany, Speck has a lifelong passion for whole grains. She is a veteran journalist and food writer and also an award-winning author. Her first book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals won multiple awards, both the New York Times and the Washington Post named it a top cookbook, and Cooking Light magazine included it as one of 100 best cookbooks of the past 25 years.
Speck’s Simply Ancient Grains covers everything from black rice to red quinoa and aims to de-mystify ancient grains for the home cook. Even though ancient grains have grown in popularity and availability over the past few years, many people feel they are too hard and take too much time to prepare to be able to incorporate them into their meals on a regular basis. Speck shows that it’s not only do-able but much faster than you think with a range of recipes for all times of the day that prove healthy can be easy and delicious as well as nutritious.
The book is divided into chapters based on different courses – Breakfast (including Slow Mornings), Salads and Sides, Soups and Stews, Pasta, Mains and Simple and Sweet desserts.
The introduction includes some excellent information to help you get those ancient grains on the table. Speck’s Two-Step Philosophy shows how a little preparation the day before can take the stress out of cooking these grains (and also help infuse more flavour). One Good Grain explains why Speck has included some “plain” grain recipes in each chapter while About the Recipes gives you a better idea of how to approach the book and choose recipes.
For those unfamiliar with many varieties of ancient grains, there’s a wonderful Ancient Grains 101 section covering everything from how to cook and bake with ancient grains and flours, equipment you might need when working with ancient grains, and a great overview (from A-Z) of the different sorts of grains available.
There’s a helpful Cooking Table for both quick and slow-cooked grains as well as a fabulous resource to help you plan your meals for the week ahead based on what grains you have on hand. Speck lists some trusted Sources (and brand names) for grains in the back of the book and there is a super helpful section describing ingredients and techniques, which may be unfamiliar to some readers of the book.
This book contains recipes for amaranth, barley, bulgur, buckwheat, corn/ grits polenta, couscous, einkorn, emmer, farro, millet, freekah, kamut, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, spelt, teff, whole wheat and wild rice. So you might have already been eating ancient grains – this book will give you new ideas and recipes as well as introduce you to some new ones.
What I love about this book is the way Speck effortlessly incorporates ancient grains in to every meal. Reading through the book, you’ll find a lot of recipes where the grains are used in place of something else more familiar (amaranth or black porridge, anyone?!) and I think this is definitely a great way to encourage “ancient grains newbies” to start working with them. For muesli enthusiasts, there is a “formula” recipe to follow which will have you wondering why you are paying top dollar for this in the supermarket - it’s so easy. Most of the recipes are on the shorter side (1-2 pages), which puts paid to the idea that ancient grains have to be complicated. Specks’ instructions are clear and well written and she makes what might seem very unfamiliar to some, very approachable.
Some of the recipes I’ve bookmarked (or made) include: Minted Lamb Sliders with Pine Nuts and Currants, Kamut Salad with Oranges, Leeks, and Blue Cheese (such an interesting salad idea – sent my dinner guests scampering off to find kamus!), Spicy Honey and Habanero Shrimp with Cherry Couscous; Farro Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Caramelized Onion and Pine Nuts (this was a huge success at an early summer barbecue), Red Rice Shakshuka with Feta Cheese, Rum Raisin Ice Cream with Kamut Berries, Lemon Scented Blondies with Millet and White Chocolate and Just Fruit Holiday Cake. Is your mouth watering yet?
Speck’s book will really help the home cook take whole grain cooking to a new level. The photos are stunning and the book would be just at home on a coffee table as it is on your kitchen counter. Once you’ve flipped through the book a couple of times, you’ll be headed to the store to pick up some new ancient grains to play with – it’s that inspiring.
Kamut salad with oranges, leeks, and blue cheese
SERVES 4 TO 6
1 1⁄2 cups water
3⁄4 cup Kamut berries, soaked overnight and drained, or about 2 cups cooked
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 small dried red chile (optional)
1⁄4 cup golden raisins
1 large orange, preferably organic
2 leeks, cut in half lengthwise, rinsed well, and cut into 3⁄4-inch segments (about 4 cups)
1⁄2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup mild crumbled blue cheese such as Stilton
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
If there is one vegetable I would love to go sky-high on the trend barometer, it is the sturdy leek. To me, its elegant slender stalks are vegetable candy. My own appreciation for this humble vegetable started when I was growing up in Germany, where leeks, potatoes, and carrots were the trinity of cold long winter months when not much else was available. Even when just allowed to soften, leeks add an alluring sweetness to every dish that features them.
In this colorful winter salad, Kamut, an ancient wheat variety, provides superb chew—each bite interspersed with juicy oranges, crunchy walnuts, and pungent blue cheese. Use spelt, wheat berries, or gulten-free sorghum to vary. This salad makes for a satisfying yet light lunch, or serve it next to grilled chicken or steak.
Add the water, Kamut, bay leaf, and chile to a small heavy saucepan and bring to
a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until tender but slightly chewy, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to steam for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, if needed. Transfer to a large serving bowl, remove the spices, and spread to cool.
Add the raisins to a small bowl and cover with hot water. Cut off a 2 by 1-inch strip of zest from the orange, removing any white pith, and set aside. Finely grate the remaining skin until you have 1 teaspoon zest and set aside. Peel the fruit, removing any pith, and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces to make about 3⁄4 cup (reserve the rest for another use).
Add the leeks, broth, wine, and the zest strip to a large skillet and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the leeks are soft,
5 to 7 minutes. Drain, remove the zest strip, and add the leeks to the bowl with the Kamut. Drain the raisins and add them to the bowl along with the orange pieces.
In a small bowl, beat the lemon juice, grated orange zest, honey, salt, and pepper with a fork until smooth. Slowly beat in the olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified.
To finish, pour the dressing over the salad, gently toss, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes, gently toss again, and sprinkle with the walnuts and blue cheese. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Reprinted with permission from Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck, copyright © 2015.Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC. Photography credit: Erin Kunkel © 2015
Purchase Simply Ancient Grains for yourself on Indigo.
Thanks to Ten Speed Press, we have one copy of Simply Ancient Grains to give away to a lucky Canadian reader.
To enter, simply tell us what is your favourite ancient grain to cook with and why.
For a bonus entry, tweet the following message:
Enter to win a copy of @mariaspeck’s #SimplyAncientGrains from @tenspeedpress and @recipegeek! Details: http://ow.ly/RDM1Y
Then come back to leave us a comment letting us know you did.
This contest will run from Sept 2, 2015 to Sept 16th, 2015. A winner will be picked via random.org on Sept 16th.
Mardi Michels is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write - a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. She has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia, Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home. She spends nearly every summer in France, honing her cooking and baking skills and touring different wine producing regions. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She was one of the founding members of Food Bloggers of Canada, and is a cook, baker, traveller, photographer, writer, Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto, contributor to JamieOliver.Com and in her spare time teaches cooking and baking classes around Toronto.
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