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GOOD COOKING / ABBY MANDEL

A Grain of Truth

November 29, 2000

Whole grains add crunch and nutty flavor to dishes. Here I use barley in a rich-tasting risotto with broccoli, millet in Cheddar-buttermilk biscuits and wheat berries in a flavorful chicken salad. These recipes may give you ideas for adding whole grains to pancakes, muffins, quick breads, soups, stews and casseroles.

Whole grains such as barley, millet and oat groats should be softened by soaking or cooking. Drained, they may be stored in a plastic bag five days in the refrigerator or a month in the freezer.

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Toasted Barley Risotto With Broccoli

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup pearl barley

2 large shallots, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 cups trimmed broccoli florets, separated into small buds

2 teaspoons butter

Salt, pepper

* Bring broth to a boil, then decrease heat so it simmers and stays hot.

* Heat oil in 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add barley. Cook, stirring often, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add shallots and garlic. Cook until just starting to soften, about 2 minutes.

* Add 1/2 cup broth. Simmer, uncovered, stirring often with wooden spoon, until most--but not all--of broth is absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup broth and cooking in this manner until barley is tender, about 20 minutes total. Toward end of cooking, add the last broth cautiously to avoid having excess liquid when barley is done. Risotto should be creamy but not runny. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated. Gently reheat over low heat until hot, stirring constantly and adding hot broth or water as needed.)

* To serve, stir broccoli and butter into hot risotto; cover and set aside until broccoli is just starting to get tender, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

2 to 4 servings. Each of 4 servings: 268 calories; 693 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 45 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 8.36 grams fiber.

Birdseed Buttermilk Biscuits With Cheddar Cheese

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Look for millet at health food stores.

1 cup flour, plus more for kneading

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Salt

1 small green onion, chopped

1/3 cup diced Cheddar cheese

2 1/2 tablespoons millet

2 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken well

1 egg

* Place flour, baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt, onion, cheese, millet and butter in food processor fitted with metal blade. Mix until cheese and butter are coarsely chopped. Drizzle buttermilk evenly over mixture. Pulse until dough starts to clump together. Do not pulse longer than necessary. Dough will be very wet.

* Transfer to well-floured board. Sprinkle top of dough with flour. Fold dough over and back onto itself until smooth, 3 to 5 times, adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking to board. Press dough to 1/2-inch thickness.

* Cut with 2 1/2-inch round cutter. Transfer biscuits to greased baking sheet. Mix egg and 1/2 teaspoon salt with fork until lightly blended. Lightly brush tops of biscuits with egg glaze.

* Bake at 400 degrees until golden, about 16 minutes. Transfer to wire rack. Cool at least 15 minutes before serving. (Can also be completely cooled, then frozen in an airtight plastic bag for 1 month. Let come to room temperature before reheating. Serve warm. Biscuits reheat best in microwave.)

6 biscuits. Each biscuit: 189 calories; 292 mg sodium; 61 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 21 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 1.03 grams fiber.

Chicken and Wheat Berry Salad

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 40 minutes

White wheat berries can be found at health food stores.

2/3 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup wheat berries

Coarse salt

2 3/4 cups water

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons minced red onion

Freshly ground pepper

3 cups skinless diced roasted chicken pieces

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery

1 tart large red apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice

4 cups crisp, thinly sliced, chilled romaine lettuce (use inner leaves, cut in half lengthwise)

* Spread almonds on baking sheet and toast in 350-degree oven until light golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.

* Place wheat berries in strainer and rinse with cold water. Put in 2-quart saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain well. You should have 2 cups. Set aside.

* Place cranberries, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup water and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar in small saucepan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Set aside vinaigrette.

* Place chicken, celery and apple in large bowl. Add wheat berries and vinaigrette. Toss until well mixed. Taste; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. (Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Let rest at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving.)

* Toss lettuce with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon vinegar, salt and pepper; this is scant dressing. Arrange lettuce on platter. Toss chicken salad with all but 2 tablespoons almonds. Taste; adjust seasoning. Mound salad in center, leaving some lettuce exposed. Garnish with remaining almonds. Serve.

6 servings. Each serving: 415 calories; 679 mg sodium; 62 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 31 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 5.51 grams fiber.

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