By Amy Maltzan
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you still can’t cook locally. There are many varieties of grains from our local farms and mills. Read below about what’s available, and maybe discover something new!
•Freekeh – roasted spelt berries, often associated with Middle Eastern cuisine served as a pilaf to accompany roasted lamb. The spelt berries are harvested when still immature and green, then roasted over coals while still in the hull. Cooked, it has a pleasant smoky undertone in the taste.
•Farro – also known as emmer, this ancient grain is used often in Italian cuisine and is the reigning favorite in our house. It has a warm deep brown color, a sweetly nutty flavor and aroma and pleasantly chewy texture. We use it as a base for stir-fries, cooked into a risotto or pilaf and in soups.
•Rye Berries – a slender grain with a nutty, slightly sour taste and chewy texture, try using in dishes with Eastern European flavors: think sautéed cabbage combined with warm rye berries and a mustard vinaigrette.
•Wheat Berries – the entire wheat kernel; when cooked, they’re plump and almost pop in your mouth with a pleasant chew. We love warm wheat berry salads combined with a vinaigrette and seasonal vegetables.
•Spelt Berries – golden in color with a deep cleft down the middle, spelt is a nice alternative to wheat berries. Try combining with beans or lentils for a nutritious and filling main dish.
•Oat Groats– though their name sounds like something a frog would say, a groat is a hulled whole grain that has its cereal germ and fiber-rich bran still intact, as well as the endosperm. I treat these like steel cut oats, soaking them overnight and then cooking the following morning for a milky, nutty and substantial bowl of hot oatmeal topped with local maple syrup.
•Popcorn, polenta and cornmeal – the corn kernel used in popcorn is ground either coarsely to make polenta, and more finely to make cornmeal. Farmer Ground Flour’s polenta is the best I have ever eaten, with a rich corn flavor and beautiful texture.
•Flours – There are so many options to fulfill your baking needs-barley, spelt, rye, emmer, buckwheat, whole wheat pastry, bread flour and of course, all-purpose flour. Since local flours are freshly ground, the quality is top-notch which translates into stellar baked goods. I’m partial to using Farmer Ground Flour’s Half-White Bread Flour in my favorite bread recipe and I love barley flour in jam thumbprint cookies.
Amy Maltzan is an avid cook, gardener and farmers’ market shopper. She blogs about her adventures in cooking seasonally at eggsonsunday.wordpress.com.
For more recipes using local grains, check out this recipe featuring freekeh and this one made with polenta.