Not sure if I ever mentioned this, but I enjoy wheat. I really have a thing for it. Some might call it an obsession. That happens when you make bread for a living.
Wheat has been an essential crop for millennia. Throughout Israel, Egypt and parts of Mesopotamia two species of wheat – emmer and einkorn – along with barley, were the first cereals to be cultivated by man. These grains, as well as four legumes and flax, are known as Neolithic founder crops.
Grains of wild emmer wheat dating to 17,000 BC have been found at Ohalo II, an archeological site on the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Domesticated emmer has been dated to 7700 BC from a site south of Damascus, Tel Aswad.
Today wheat is cultivated worldwide and is the second largest cereal crop, just behind corn. The wheat seed contains an outer husk called the bran, a reproductive seed called the germ, and the protein rich center called the endosperm. Raw wheat seeds are known as whole wheat, which is typically powdered into flour. It is also available with the bran removed as cracked wheat or bulgur. White flour is made by removing the outer bran and the germ and grinding only the endosperm.
We eat a lot of wheat is this country. But we eat it in the form of highly refined flour. Mixed with refined sugars and hydrogenated oils, it is no longer recognizable as grain. The nutrients are gone, and it does more harm than good nutritionally. Even though we grow it here, whole grain is our nation’s most under-utilized food.
Add more whole grains to your diet with this delicious dish. Serve it on the side or add some fresh vegetables and beans for a satisfying meal.
Timing is the trick to this recipe, because each grain requires a different cooking time.
Mixed Grain Pilaf
3 TB. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB. sesame seeds
1/4 cup wild rice
1/4 cup barley
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup cracked wheat
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic, and cook until tender. Add sesame seeds, wild rice and barley, and cook 5-10 minutes, stirring until toasted and brown. Add salt and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, stir in brown rice and cook another 20 minutes. Lastly, add the cracked wheat and finish cooking 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork just before serving and top with chopped parsley.
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To simmer is to cook something just below the boil. The idea is to cook the food gently without evaporating the liquid.
Boiling is not only designed to cook food in hot liquid, but to keep it moving, and often to reduce the liquids level and concentrate its flavors.
When liquid boils, bubbles rise to the surface and pop, releasing evaporated water (AKA “steam”) into the air. This concentrates the liquids flavor, and reduces the amount of water. It’s the principle behind sauce reductions.
Simmering foods are often covered to help retain as much moisture and flavor in the pot as possible. Boiling foods can’t generally be covered, as the pressure and amount of steam is always stronger than a wimpy lid.