Ancient grains with new bite

Ancient grains with new bite

Ancient grains amaranth, freekeh, farrow,quinoa, Kamut. Photographed at the Great Lakes Culinary Center.(Photo: Jessica J. Trevino, Detroit Free Press)Buy Photo

Are you familiar with freekeh? How about Kamut? And amaranth or emmer?

Known as ancient grains, and found in the rice and grain aisle at grocery stores, these old grains are new again. With roots that trace back centuries and once found mainly at health food and specialty stores, ancient grains are becoming more mainstream at your local grocery stores.

Ancient grains, a staple in cultures worldwide, have many health benefits. Some have even called them a super food. While most ancient grains carry a list of essential vitamins and minerals, “Labeling these grains as super — the latest trend — is hyperbole. All whole grains are healthful, each in its own way,” according to a 2014 University of California Berkeley Wellness report.

“Ancient grains are certainly more nutritious than refined grain products (like white flour or refined crackers), but the health benefits of whole grains need not come with high price tags or mythic origin stories,” Kelly Toups, a registered dietitian and program manager for Boston-based Oldways Whole Grains Council, said in an e-mail.

The health benefits of whole grains, says Toups, include reduced risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A lower risk of colorectal cancer is also associated with whole grains.

In the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it’s recommended that half the grains you consume should be whole grains.

In terms of popularity, first came quinoa and little-by-little, lesser known grains like freekah, farro, kamut and amaranth cropped up. You will find them on their own or paired with others in grain medleys. Some of these grains, like quinoa and kamut, are also ground into flours and used to replace other flours in ingredients like pasta. Many of these ancient grains, like millet and amaranth, are also gluten-free.

Evidence is mounting that more Americans are making whole grains a part of their diets.

Ancient grains were named a top food trend in the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Culinary Forecast. According to a report from data research firm Packaged Facts, sales growth of kamut for the 52-week period ending July 2014 was up 686%. Freekeh sales increased 159%, and amaranth was up 123%.

Flavor profiles of ancient grains range from farro’s hearty and earthy nuances to aramanth and quinoa’s mild flavor. You can use ancient grains as a side dish or swap them out for rice in most recipes.

Today’s Feast recipes include using quinoa to make cakes and mixing farro with spinach and tahini. Freekeh is paired with caramelized onions and chickpeas for a protein-packed dish. And tiny aramanth lends its texture to cornmeal muffins. Kamut adds interest to a breakfast bowl with avocado and quinoa. Any leftover cooked grains are great addition tossed in a salad.

So up your grain game and give these ancient grains a try.

Contact Susan Selasky at 313-222-6872 or Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.

Amaranth (ama-ranth)

Botanically speaking, amaranth is considered a pseuodo-grain because it’s a seed, not a grain. But it’s thought of as a grain because its nutritional profile is so similar to cereal grains. Amaranth is also eaten like a grain. Amaranth is tiny, smaller than the size of a pin head. Has a porridge-like consistency and is often used in a such a way.

Advantages: Gluten-free and high in protein. Amaranth is also noted for potentially lowering cholesterol.

Cook it: Amaranth cooks quickly. Place 1 cup amaranth in 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook 20 minutes. You can pop it like popcorn in a dry skillet and stir it into melted chocolate or granola.

Recipe to try: Amaranth-cornmeal Muffins

Farro (far-ro)

Cultivated in Italy, farro is often called emmer and einkorn. You will find farro in whole, pearled and semi-pearled varieties. Whole takes longer to cook because it still has the germ and bran. It’s hulled, but the process keeps the germ and bran intact. Pearled and semi-pearled have some of the nutritous germ and bran removed. Use it in place of rice in risotto, in pilafs, in stuffings and salads.

Advantages: High in fiber and protein, has no fat and has more calcium than quinoa. Farro has a hearty, yet nutty flavor. It’s also a little on the chewy side.

Cook it: Place 1 cup farro in 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer about 1 hour for whole farro, 30 minutes for pearled and 30 to 40 minutes for semi-pearled. Drain any excess water.

Recipe to try: Farro with Tahini and Spinach

Quinoa (keen-WAH)

Quinoa is called the mother of all grains because it’s a complete protein and contains all the essential amino acids. This grain is grown mainly in South America and is considered sacred by the Incas. Its annual harvest starts in late March, according to the Whole Grains Council. You will find white, red and black quinoa varieties or a medley of all three.

Advantages: Gluten-free and a nutrient all-star containing protein and fiber. One cup of cooked quinoa has 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. It has a slightly crunchy texture that’s more pronounced in the black variety. Based on its health properties and ease of growing, quinoa is thought of as an important crop as a world food source. Use it in soups, salads and as a side dish.

How to cook: To cook 1 cup of quinoa to serve as a side dish, place it in 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Recipe to try: Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Garlic Aioli.

Freekeh (free-kuh)

This is the newest to the grain aisle. The name freekeh means “to rub” in Arabic, so this grain is named after how it’s made — not the variety of wheat. Young green grains are parched and roasted and then rubbed to reveal the roasted grains. You’ll find it on its own in whole or cracked varieties. Freekeh has a smoky and nutty flavor.

Advantages: Fiber-rich with a low glycemic index according to “Simply Ancient” by Maria Speck (Penguin Random House, $27.50).

How to cook: Freekeh is sold whole or cracked. The latter cooks faster. Add 1 cup of freekeh to 2½ cups water or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook about 20 minutes or until just tender

Recipe to try: Freekeh with Caramelized Shallots, Chickpeas and Greek Yogurt.

Kamut (ka-MOOT)

Kamut is a trademarked name for Khorasan wheat. It’s about twice the size of a wheat berry and closely related to wheat. Kamut is fatter than a grain of rice and puffs up a little once cooked. There are two references of Kamut’s origins: called the Prophet’s Wheat because it’s thought that Noah brought Kamut kernals on the Ark. It’s also called King Tut’s Wheat because of claims that it was found in the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh.

Advantages: A good source of protein and fiber. Some sources say that people who are wheat-intolerant may be able to tolerate and digest Kamut.

How to cook: Kamut is best if you soak it overnight before cooking. Place 1 cup Kamut in a bowl, cover with 3 cups water and soak overnight. Drain off the water. In a saucepan bring 3 cups water or broth to a boil. Add the Kamut, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 30-40 minutes (about 1 hour if you didn’t soak it). Drain off any excess water and serve.

Recipe to try: Avocado Breakfast Bowl with Kamut and Quinoa.

Your Love Of Quinoa Is Good News For Andean Farmers : The Salt : NPR

Your Love Of Quinoa Is Good News For Andean Farmers
Farmer Geronimo Blanco shows his quinoa plants in Patamanta, Bolivia, in February. A burgeoning global demand for quinoa has led to a threefold price increase since 2006.Enlarge image

Farmer Geronimo Blanco shows his quinoa plants in Patamanta, Bolivia, in February. A burgeoning global demand for quinoa has led to a threefold price increase since 2006.

Juan Karita/AP

Quinoa lovers have been put on a bit of a guilt trip with stories suggesting that the increased demand in the U.S. has put the superfood out of reach for those living closest to where it’s grown.

How can poor Bolivians in La Paz afford to pay three times more for quinoa than they would pay for rice, critics have asked?

So some quinoa farmers in Bolivia and distributors are talking back. And what they want us to know is that their incomes are rising. As the price of quinoa has tripled since 2006, and farmers plant more of the crop, they’re typically making more money.

“To me, quinoa … is absolutely changing the lives of our regional community of people,” German Nina, a quinoa farmer, said during a conference call organized by Alter Eco Foods, which sells quinoa products that are fair trade certified.

Eduoard Rollet of Alter Eco adds that when he visits the farmers that he buys from in Bolivia, he finds that they are typically setting aside a portion of the quinoa they grow so that they can eat it themselves throughout the year.

“The farmers who have been eating quinoa traditionally are still eating quinoa,” he told me. And since their incomes are up, “they’re able to now afford [foods such as] tomatoes and salads and veggies, and foods that they weren’t able to afford before,” Rollet says.

And he’s not alone in thinking that the quinoa boom has been good, on balance, for rural communities in Bolivia.

It is “very good news for small, indigenous farmers,” says Pablo Laguna, an anthropologist who has studied quinoa’s influence on local communities in Bolivia. Quinoa’s popularity, he says, is bringing more income to the southern highlands, traditionally one of the poorest regions in Bolivia. Laguna has also worked as a consultant to Alter Eco.

Laguna acknowledges that “quinoa prices are definitely higher” for locals. But among the rural and farm families of southwest Bolivia, “households have not diminished … their quinoa consumption,” he says.

In some instances, Laguna says, llama herders in the regions are eating a bit less quinoa because of the price, but they’re still eating more than most other households in the world.

He says that these families recognize and appreciate quinoa’s nutritional value. Nutritionally, it’s a superstar, since it contains an ideal blend of essential amino acids that form a complete protein. And quinoa has become a vegan-foodie favorite, known for its nutty taste and satisfying texture.

A salad of asparagus and quinoa, a superfood prized for its nutty taste, satisfying texture and protein content.Enlarge image

A salad of asparagus and quinoa, a superfood prized for its nutty taste, satisfying texture and protein content.

Larry Crowe/AP

So if quinoa farmers are still enjoying this crop, what is the downside of the boom?

Some would point to the cities of Bolivia and Peru. I’ve already mentioned that quinoa is three times more expensive than rice in La Paz markets. And according to an article in The Guardian, quinoa is more expensive than chicken in markets in Lima.

These prices do likely put quinoa out of reach for poorer people. But Laguna notes that while quinoa has been a staple for rural Bolivians, it isn’t one for city folks.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has weighed in on the issue as well. Though some press reports from 2011 suggested domestic consumption was down, Morales says otherwise.

“It’s not true that due to an increase in the price of quinoa, less and less is being consumed” in Bolivia, The Associated Press quoted Morales as saying in an article in February.

In fact, Morales pointed to a threefold increase in domestic consumption of quinoa over the past four years.

Editor’s Note: You can hear Allison discuss this story with Robin Young on Here & Now, a show from NPR and member station WBUR.


How to Use Leaves as Wraps –

Soy-Sesame Bok Choy Rolls

When prepping for a recent visit from a gluten-avoiding friend, I decided to prepare a meal that was naturally wheatless instead of reaching for a gluten-free facsimile.

I could have centered the main dish around rice, millet, or even quinoa, but rather than go the predictable route, I opted to use a collard leaf as a wrap, filling it with sprouted sunflower-seed paté, thick slices of avocado, homegrown sprouts, shredded carrot, and thin slices of spicy red pepper. I topped it with a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing and rolled it, burrito-style, into a manageable envelope that could be eaten out of hand or with a knife and fork. (We chose the former.)

Weather you are avoiding gluten or not, using leaves as wraps is a great way to cut calories and liven up your lunch or dinner. Kale or collards make super stand-ins for tortillas while Iceberg or butter lettuce leaves make great taco shells or “cups” for Asian-style fillings.

Watch “Kitchen Tricks: How to Use Leaves as Wraps” to learn how to roll your own from organic foods chef Ani Phyo.

Try these recipes from the VT vault that make creative use of leaves as wraps:

Raw Swiss Chard Veggie Wraps with Creamy Pecan Spread

Rice and Chickpea Kale Rolls with Pineapple Salsa

Soy-Sesame Bok Choy Rolls (pictured)

Ginger-Miso Yam Wraps

Curry and Chickpea Lettuce Wraps


Quinoa: How to Pronounce It and Why You Should Eat It | LIVESTRONG.COM


Nationally recognized nutrition expert and published author Keri Glassman is the founder and president of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available in major markets in the United States. For years, Keri has been a leader in advancing a “whole person” approach to health and wellness. She has dedicated her career to creating services and promoting education through her Nutritious Life brand. Women’s Health Magazine embraces Keri’s practical and accessible approach to health and wellness. She is a member of their advisory board and writes a popular monthly column called “Lighten Up” and a page called “Flat Belly Day”.

Keri has authored four books including the forthcoming The New You and Improved Diet: 8 Rules to Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever (Rodale, December 2012); and the recently-released Slim Calm Sexy Diet (Rodale, March 2012), which helps readers lose weight, conquer stress, and feel and look their best every day. Her second book, The O2 Diet: The Cutting Edge, Antioxidant-Based Program That Will Make You Healthy, Thin and Beautiful (Rodale, December 2009), translates complex scientific research on antioxidants into useful and useable tools that empower people to live a more Nutritious Life. The O2 Diet follows the Snack Factor Diet, (Crown, 2007.) Keri also contributed to Editor-In-Chief Women’s Health Magazine, Michele Promaulayko’s book, Look Better Naked (Rodale, April 2010.)

Keri helps millions as a nutrition and health expert in the media. She is dedicated to her field and to the broader goal of educating the public, and her expertise is regularly featured on several national television programs including NBC’s The Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, Access Hollywood Live, The View, The Talk, The Chew, Dr. Oz, The Doctors, The Wendy Williams Show, MSNBC, The Fox News Channel, and CNN. She also is the nutrition and health contributor for NBC’s New York Live. Keri hosts an original series called “A Little Bit Better” which is featured on Youtube’s Livestrong Woman channel. She is a spokesperson for national brands that align with the Nutritious Life mission, and is a prolific writer and commentator with contributions to numerous publications nationwide, such as OK! Magazine and Hamptons Magazine. She also regularly contributes articles and recipes to several websites including Equinox, Martha Stewart Living, and

Keri resides in New York City with her children, Rex and Maizy.