The Simple Art of Cooking: So Many Good Grains!

Today no one seems surprised to learn that whole grains are good for you. A river of scientific research shows that the more fiber-rich foods we eat, the healthier we get. New whole grain and whole wheat products are being introduced in the marketplace at a quickening pace and are taking the form of breads, pastas, rice and dried cereals.

Labeling on these products is undergoing a positive change and will hopefully provide the consumer with much needed guidance.

Rebecca Woods, author of The Splendid Grain (Morrow), pretty well sums it up when she writes, “A grain is more delicious when intact, rather than when polished, pearled, degermed, or refined. The germ contains the spark of life and the bran gives shape to the form and kernel. Both germ and bran are concentrated sources of nutrients. That is why whole grains make us feel good and provide us with boundless energy.”

Wheatberries are a healthy addition to a salad or sauté. Here the cooked grain is added to sautéed shallots and mushrooms giving the vegetables a satisfying crunch. I’ve been running into take-out salads with quinoa, an ancient but newly popular super grain. In the recipe below cooked quinoa is mixed with any leftover, cooked vegetables. For a cooling quinoa salad add fresh cooked soybeans and dress the entire mixture with a bit more olive oil and rice vinegar to taste!


For basic preparation boil the wheatberries for 40 to 45 minutes until the grains are tender. They have a rich, nutty and satisfying flavor when added to a salad or sauté.

Serves 4

1 cup wheatberries

2 1/2 cups water

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

1/3 to 1/2 pound shitake and button mushrooms,

stemmed, rinsed and thinly sliced

1/2 cup chicken broth

Freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf Italian


1. Toast the wheatberries in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, about 7 to 8 minutes, until they pop. Rinse the berries in a strainer and drain. Put the berries in a medium saucepan, add the water, and let soak for at least one hour. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt, cover, adjust heat, and simmer for about one hour, or until berries are tender. Watch for water evaporation. If berries aren’t tender and the water has evaporated add more water and continue to cook, checking the timing as necessary. Let rest, covered for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

2. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet and when hot add the shallots. Sauté for a minute or so until shallots are translucent, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer briskly over medium-high until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add cooked wheatberries and parsley to the mixture and stir to mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a super grain with a high nutrition profile. It cooks quickly, has a crunchy, nutlike flavor, and contrasts well with vegetables.

Serves 3 to 4

1 cup quinoa

2 1/4 cups boiling water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cloves, garlic, peeled and left whole

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Sautéed, roasted or steamed left over vegetables, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups

1. Put quinoa in a fine strainer and rinse the grains well. Gently pat dry in a clean kitchen towel. Meanwhile bring the water to a boil in a small covered saucepan.

2. Place garlic cloves in a 10-inch non-stick skillet with the oil and heat until garlic is golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove garlic and discard. Put the quinoa in the oil and spread to the edges of the pan. Toss the grains in the pan for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour over the boiling water and salt and cover the skillet. Cook slowly over medium to medium-low heat until liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes. Toss the grain in the pan. The grain will open slightly and have a crunchy texture. Add room temperature leftover sautéed or steamed vegetables, taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Visit Silvia’s website at to read her blogs and more recipes.

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