I’m not going to tell you that me and Martha Stewart are psychically connected…OK, maybe we are…but recently my brain has been fixated on how I can cook more whole grains and it appears that she (or her trusty staff) were thinking the same thing.
Not just using grains in soups or side dishes, but also for breakfast. Now, I’m not a BIG breakfast person. As a kid, my morning meal consisted of a tall glass of chalky chocolate Ovaltine. In college, I learned from the prep and boarding school kids that grabbing breakfast before class was actually a cool thing to do, that and listening to the Spin Doctors in your dorm room (less cool in retrospect): A bowl of flakes, a cup of yogurt with granola, some whole wheat toast slathered with peanut butter and honey. So I kind of went with the breakfast thing for awhile, but I was always more of a lunch girl. Then when I was a working slave in the city surviving on an assistant’s salary, it was all about the post-bender egg and cheese on a roll (with ketchup, maybe crisp bacon if it was needed, and a lemon Snapple on the side) from the deli on the way to work to soak up all those dive bar toxins. These sandwiches were stupendous and crucial to survival.
But lately I’ve been wanting a break from the toast and almond butter rut. Some part of my New Year brain was wondering if I should be eating more whole grains (which I love for their toothsome texture and wholesomeness) and if there was a way to get them into my daily diet at breakfast time. Which leads me to the perfectly timed January issue of Martha Stewart Living and the discovery of a great food story on hot grain cereals.
I love this story. As a magazine editor I dig any service piece that marries great images and ideas with a graph—this food story has it all. It’s just a very straightforward but still creative how-to for cooking several types of grains for a hot cereal breakfast: farro and barley (which I made), as well as millet, cornmeal, steel-cut oats, quinoa (the Taylor Swift of grains right now), and wheat berries. The graph tells you how to make the grain either fluffy or creamy, and there are also suggestions for what to add for flavor and added healthful benefits. For some grains they suggest adding either rice milk, soy milk, skim milk, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, or almond milk to the finished cereal. I found that the barley and farro were a bit on the liquid side when they were done simmering (maybe add a bit less water?) so although I did swirl in some almond milk to the barley, I left the creamy farro as is, with no additional liquid. I also used a serrated spoon to scoop out just the grains because I didn’t want it to get soggy with the cooking liquid.
The creative part is choosing what to add on top of your cereal. For the barley I added chopped apricots, toasted pecans, cubes of granny smith apples, and almond milk. For the farro I added sliced banana, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, and honey (maple syrup would be good too). Both were delicious and hearty and made me feel like I was starting the day like some kind of Portland, Oregon-based super hero (although I have to say, it requires a little time to make, so you might need to get up a bit earlier if you want it ready before school or work). The delicious farro cereal was a real surprise because I’ve always thought of it as a savory Italian ingredient, but now I realize how diverse it can be. And it’s also a lot better than Ovaltine. No chalky chocolate mustache.Recipe for Creamy Farro
Bring 5 cups of water and 1/4 tsp of salt to a boil. Whisk in 1 cup of farro. Return to a boil then lower to a simmer. Stir frequently for the next 35 to 40 minutes until tender and creamy. Serve immediately with toppings.
Recipe for Fluffy Barley
Bring 2 1/2 cups of water and 1/4 tsp salt to a boil. Whisk in 1 cup of “pick hulled” barley. Return to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork before serving. Serve with toppings.
Toppings for cereal:
Dried fruits: cranberry, cherries, apricots.
Sliced fruit: bananas, apples.
Nuts—almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews.
Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Dark Chocolate Chunks.
Tropical Fruit: Pineapple, Passion Fruit, Mango.