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Protein-rich Grains

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 | Tags: ,

For vegetarians, ensuring you're eating enough protein can be a tricky task. For a review of "The New Moosewood Cookbook", we researched protein-rich grains as a meat alternative. Here's a quick shopping guide.

Amaranth

  • Native to South America and often referred to as an “ancient grain”, Amaranth is particularly popular with health-conscious consumers because it is gluten-free. (Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. A small percentage of people in North America are unable to digest gluten, or have other adverse reactions to it.)

  • Because it does not contain gluten, Amaranth must be mixed with other flours for baking in order to help the dough rise.

  • Both the seeds and the leaves are high in protein, and Amaranth actually contains more protein than wheat.

  • The seeds of the Amaranth plant are used as cereal, while the leaves are used as vegetables.

  • Amaranth is high essential amino acids (especially lysine, which is important to the human body’s process of tissue repair and the production of antibodies), as well as high in fibre, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Uses and Preparation

  • In some areas of the world, Amaranth is used as a spinach-flavoured vegetable where its green leaves are boiled and eaten.

  • It is also used as an ornamental plant. Amaranth flowers that are maroon or crimson in colour are used in red dyes to colour drinks in Bolivia and Argentina, as well as maize dough in Mexico and the United States.

  • In North America, Amaranth is primarily used as a grain for humans to eat, and as livestock feed. It is a versatile crop that is resistant to drought and weeds.

  • Amaranth can be cooked as a breakfast cereal, or it can be added to soups or other dishes for thickness.

  • It has a slightly nutty taste, and is available as whole seeds, flakes or flour.

  • When cooking Amaranth as a cereal, use three parts water to one part grain. Cooking time is 25-30 minutes.

Shopping Tips

  • Amaranth seeds are tan or light brown in color and are about the size of poppy seeds.

  • Store in a cool, dry area in a sealed glass or plastic container because air, moisture, and sunlight can cause the oils to go rancid.

  • Amaranth must be cooked before it is eaten because it contains components in its raw form that block the absorption of some nutrients in our digestive system.

Bulgur Wheat

  • Bulgar is man’s oldest recorded use of wheat, and has been an integral part of Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years.

  • It is made by soaking and cooking the whole wheat kernel, drying it, and then removing part of the bran and cracking the remaining kernel into small pieces.

  • Bulgur is convenient since it is ready to eat with minimal cooking.

  • IIt has the same nutritive value as whole wheat and can be used in place of rice, though is more nutritious.

Uses and Preparation

  • Bulgar can be used in many dishes, from salads to soups, breads to desserts, It’s also a nutritious extender and thickener for meat dishes and soups.

  • Bulgur absorbs twice its volume in water and can be used in place of rice in any recipe.

  • Bulgur is available in several granule sizes: the finer the grind, the less time required for cooking. Tabbouleh salad is a popular Middle Eastern dish made with medium bulgur, for example.

  • Bulgur cooks very quickly and does not require lengthy periods of vigorous boiling, as a number of other grain products do. It simply needs to be soaked in water that has been brought to a boil and is then poured into the pan or dish containing the bulgur.

Shopping Tips

  • Look for light-coloured (not dark) bulgar.

  • Bulgar comes in many different sizes of grain, referred to in a system from Number One (the finest grind) to Number Four (the coarsest). The finer the grind, the less cooking time it takes to prepare.

  • The usual ratio for bulgar wheat to water is approximately 1:2, however for coarser grinds you may need a bit more water.

Wheatberry

  • Wheatberry is a whole wheat kernel whose appearance is similar to that of brown rice.

  • There are a few different varieties of wheatberry which vary in size, colour, and texture, and named after their growing season, gluten content, and colour:

    • Hard Red Spring and Hard Red Winter – These types are hardy, high in protein and brownish in colour. They are often used to make ‘hard’ flours used to make bread and other baked goods.

    • Hard White – This type has a hard kernel and light, pale colour. It’s often used for bread and brewing.

    • Soft White – Similar in colour to hard white wheat, this is characterized by a softer kernel, and is often used to make pastry flour.

Quinoa

  • Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa), believed to have originated in South America, is a popular alternative to rice and pasta.

  • It is considered an ancient grain, and has been used for 6,000 years.

  • Quinoa is considered a complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids not naturally produced by the human body.

  • Its high-protein content makes it especially popular among vegans and vegetarians.

  • It is also high in fibre and B vitamins.

  • Quinoa has a distinctive spiral shape, and it cooks up light and fluffy.

Uses and Preparation

  • Quinoa is a seed that can be prepared and used like whole grains, such as rice and barley.

  • It has higher levels of calcium, iron, fibre, and B vitamins than wheat, corn, oats and barley.

  • It is readily found in health-food stores.

  • Quinoa is often boiled, and can be eaten plain on its own, or used in soups. It is also toasted in the form of tortillas or mixed with flour for bread.

  • Quinoa is also used for animal feed, and is fermented to make an alcoholic drink called chicha.

  • To cook Quinoa, combine two parts water or vegetable broth to one part grain with a bit of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 12-15 minutes.

  • Quinoa should be served light and fluffy, not mushy. It has a light, earthy flavour.

Shopping Tips

  • Quinoa is a small seed that in size, shape, and color looks like a cross between sesame seed and millet.

  • It is disk shaped with a flattened or depressed equatorial band around its periphery.

  • It is usually a pale yellow color but some species may vary from almost white through pink, orange, or red to purple and black.

  • Quinoa has a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids which means that it’s important to store it in a cool place.

  • If you are going to store it for the long term, place it in airtight containers and remove the oxygen with oxygen absorbers. Removing the oxygen doesn’t stop the aging process of foods, but it goes a long way to extend it.

Millet

  • Millet is a popular grain used in Asian and African cuisine.Millet is a round, bead-like grain that is gluten-free.

  • It has a mild, nutty flavour, and a creamy texture. Many people toast millet in order to improve its bland flavour.

  • Millet is high in protein, fibre, B vitamins and iron.

Uses and Preparation

  • Millet is available whole, puffed, and as grits and flour.

  • It is best to store millet in a cool, dry place.

  • If purchasing millet from a bulk station, you should smell it first – if it smells stale or musty, do not buy it.

  • To bring out a deeper flavour before cooking, toast millet in a dry pot or pan (stirring constantly) for three to four minutes until it emits a nutty fragrance.

  • Some believe if millet is not toasted before cooking, the outside of the grain gets mushy before the inside is fully cooked.

  • To cook millet, rinse it, and combine one part grain to 2 1/2 parts water and a pinch of salt.

  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

  • Millet should be fluffy when served. Cooking it longer with more water will make it mushy, which works well for breakfast cereal if grains are combined with up to five cups of a combination of water and milk.

  • To make porridge using millet, combine three cups eater to one cup grain, and prepare as you would conventional porridge.

  • Millet tends to get sticky when cooled, so works well in vegetarian stuffings, and garden and veggie burgers.

Spelt

  • Spelt is an ancient grain believed to have originated in the Middle East, that can be substituted for wheat and rice.

  • It has up to 25 per cent more protein than regular wheat, and has a mild, nutty flavour.

  • Spelt is a good source of protein.

Uses and Preparation

  • Spelt is available as whole kernels, flakes, and flour.

  • It can be used as a substitute for wheat and rice.

  • Spelt flour is available in both whole-grain and refined forms, and can be used as a substitute for wheat flour in recipes.

  • Whole-grain flour contains the bran (outer shell) and germ (seed embryo) and endosperm (seed tissue) of a grain.

  • Refined flour generally only uses the endosperm of the grain. However, the bran and the germ parts contain nutrients, including fibre, B vitamins, and vitamin E, that are not found in the endosperm.

  • To cook spelt kernels, rinse them first, then combine one part kernels and three parts water.

  • Add a pinch of salt, and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 50-60 minutes until the kernels are tender.

  • Spelt flakes can be used like rolled oats in recipes and in cereals.

  • To cook spelt flakes, combine one part flakes with three parts water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Couscous

  • Couscous is considered a type of small, granular pasta believed to have originated in North Africa.

  • It is made by rolling hard wheat grains (semolina, or durum wheat) into tiny beads, moistening them, and coating them in fine wheat flour.

Uses and Preparation

  • Packaged couscous will cook quickly and easily simply by adding hot water and letting it steep for up to five minutes, no cooking required.

  • Dried couscous expands when cooked, and results in about 2 1/2 cups of cooked couscous to one cup of dried couscous.

  • Couscous may also be prepared like rice by adding the grain to heated butter, then adding stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed. Couscous may also be eaten as a porridge, in salads, or in desserts.

  • On its own, couscous does not have much flavour, and benefits from added stock, herbs, spices, vegetables, etc.

Shopping Tips

  • Couscous can be purchased in bulk or in boxes found in the rice aisle.

  • If buying couscous in bulk, check that the bins are covered and that the store has a good turnover rate to ensure freshness.

  • If buying packaged couscous, look for a product that says whole wheat or whole grain on the label.

  • Couscous should be refrigerated to prevent the natural fats in the grain from turning rancid. They can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place whwere they will keep up to 6 months.

 

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