We all know the mantra. Eat more whole grains, which begs the question: what exactly are they, and why all the hullabaloo?
Whole grains are the whole kernels of a grain with its bran and germ intact. On the other hand, refined grains have had the bran and germ mechanically removed in order to make them more appealing taste wise. Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie made with white flour? Or a burger on a white bun?
The problem is that when the bran and germ are removed, much of the nutrition is lost, leaving behind mostly…starchy calories that can lead to weight gain. Hence the hullabaloo.
I’ve been conducting some culinary experiments in an effort to get more of these tasty gems into my regular rotation. I got help from “Ancient Grains for Modern Times,” by Greek-born cookbook author Maria Speck, who really knows her way around the grain bin.
The following recipe for brown rice pilaf uses instant brown rice to save time, but Ms. Speck also gives instructions for parboiling regular brown rice, which led to my experiment. It worked flawlessly.
As we munched our pilaf last evening, Champ and I brainstormed alternatives to artichokes and peas — asparagus, broccoli, sugar snap peas. The idea is to use what you like and what you have on hand. With some grated Parmesan cheese, the pilaf becomes creamy and risotto-like. The next time I’ll serve this with grilled shrimp on top and maybe a spritz of fresh lemon juice.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped green onions, both white and green parts
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp. dried
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups instant brown rice*
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas (do not thaw)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill or Italian parsley, plus extra for serving
1/4 tsp. black pepper
8 quarters frozen or canned artichoke hearts (do not thaw if using frozen)
Finely grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a large saucepan; add green onions and 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the green parts wilt but don’t brown, about 2 minutes. Add the rosemary and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rice and stir until the kernels are coated with oil. Stir in the broth and add the peas and 2 Tbsp. of the dill. Nestle the artichoke hearts into the rice and season with remaining salt and the black pepper.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with more chopped dill and grated Parmesan cheese.
*While instant brown rice is super convenient, cookbook author Maria Speck recommends parboiling your own brown rice and using it instead. Her method yields almost-cooked brown rice that you can store in the fridge or freezer and finish cooking any time you need brown rice in a hurry. I used it in this recipe and it turned out perfectly. The easy-to-follow instructions are here.
If you use parboiled rice instead of instant rice, here’s what to do: use 1 full recipe of parboiled rice (instead of 2 cups of instant rice). Reduce the amount of chicken broth to 3/4 cup (instead of 1 3/4 cups). Cook for 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes. And sit back and relax — it works !
WW PP Per serving: 6