Grains

Grains
amaranth, amaranth seeds
amaranth
These tiny ancient seeds have been cultivated in the Americas for several millennia. They're rich in protein and calcium, and have a pleasant, peppery flavor. One variety of amaranth is grown for its leaves, which are called Chinese spinach.
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arborio rice, Piedmont rice
arborio rice
This plump white rice can absorb lots of water without getting mushy, so it's perfect for making risotto. The best comes from Italy. Arborio is very well-regarded
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baby corn, Chinese baby corn, corn, baby
baby corn
These are tiny ears of corn that are eaten cob and all. Asian cooks like to add them to stir-fried dishes, and they often show up in salad bars. It's hard to find them fresh, but many markets sell them in cans or jars.
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Barley
Barley
Barley's been feeding humans for millennia, though it fell out of favor during the last one as people came to see it as low-brow peasant fare. It's most often used in soups and stews, where it serves as both a puffy grain and a thickener, but it also makes a nice side dish or salad. At most markets, you'll have to choose between two types of barley. Hulled barley is the most nutritious, since only the tough outer hulls are polished off. Pearl barley is polished some more, so that the outer bran layer is also scrubbed off. It's less nutritious, but more popular since it's not as chewy as hulled barley and it cooks faster.
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barley flakes, flaked barley, rolled barley
barley flakes
To make this, barley kernels are sliced, then rolled flat into flakes. Like rolled oats, rolled barley is usually served as a hot cereal. It takes about 30 minutes to cook.
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barley grits
barley grits
These are barley kernels that have been toasted, and then cracked into smaller pieces in order to speed up the cooking time. They're a bit hard to find.
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basmati rice
basmati rice
This aromatic, long-grain rice is grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and is especially popular in India. The cooked grains are dry and fluffy, so they make a nice bed for curries and sauces. Basmati is available as either white or brown rice. Brown basmati has more fiber and a stronger flavor, but it takes twice as long to cook. Aged basmati rice is better, but more expensive.
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Bhutanese red rice
Bhutanese red rice
This red short-grain rice is a staple in rural areas of Bhutan, a small kingdom nestled high in the Himalayas. It has a strong, nutty flavor and is best served with other assertive ingredients. It cooks much faster than brown rice.
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black barley, Ethiopian black barley
black barley
This is similar to pearl barley, only it has a black exterior.
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black forbidden rice
black forbidden rice
This has short grains which turn a beautiful indigo when cooked.
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black quinoa
black quinoa
Like ordinary quinoa, this cooks quickly, has a mild flavor, and a slightly crunchy texture. Rinse off its bitter coating before using.
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bran, polishings
bran
This is the made from the outer husk of the grain, and it's a rich source of fiber. There are two types of fiber: insoluble fiber, which passes right through us undigested, and soluble fiber, which is digested by friendly bacteria in our intestines. Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran and corn bran, and it's good for flushing out the intestines. Soluble fiber, found in oat bran, makes you feel full, so it's good for dieters
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brown rice, whole grain rice
brown rice
Many rice varieties come as either brown rice or white rice. Brown rice isn't milled as much as white, so it retains the bran and germ. That makes brown rice more fiber-rich, nutritious, and chewy. Unfortunately, it doesn't perform as well as white rice in many recipes. Long grains of brown rice aren't as fluffy and tender, and short grains aren't as sticky. Brown rice also takes about twice as long to cook and has a much shorter shelf life (because of the oil in the germ). Keep it in a cool, dark place for not more than three months. Refrigeration can extend shelf life.
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Buckwheat
Buckwheat
Buckwheat is loaded with nutrients, especially protein, and it has a nutty, earthy flavor. It's most commonly ground into a dark, gritty flour and used to make everything from pancakes to soba noodles. Eastern Europeans also like their buckwheat crushed into small groats, which they toast in oil and use to make side dishes and breakfast cereals.
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buckwheat grits, buckwheat cereal, cream of buckwheat
buckwheat grits
These are finely ground buckwheat groats that cook very quickly. They're commonly used as a breakfast cereal.
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buckwheat groats
buckwheat groats
These are buckwheat kernels that are stripped of their inedible outer coating and then crushed into smaller pieces. Unprocessed white groats are slightly bitter, so before you cook them it's a good idea to toast them in oil for several minutes until they're rust-colored. This removes the bitterness and brings out a pleasant, nutty flavor. If you don't want to do this yourself, you can buy already roasted groats, called kasha.
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bulgur, ala, birghil, bulgar, bulghur, bulgur wheat, burghal, burghul
bulgur
Bulgur is made from whole wheat that's been soaked and baked to speed up the cooking time. It's especially popular in the Middle East, where it's used to make tabouli and pilafs. Bulgur comes either whole, or cracked into fine, medium, or coarse grains.
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converted rice, parboiled rice
converted rice
This is a good compromise between nutritious brown rice and tender, fast-cooking white rice. Converted rice is steamed before it's husked, a process that causes the grains to absorb many of the nutrients from the husk. When cooked, the grains are more nutritious, firmer, and less clingy than white rice grains. Uncle Ben's is a well-known brand.
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corn, maize, sweet corn
corn
This is the only grain that's commonly eaten as a fresh vegetable. Native to the Americas, corn is a great source of vitamin A, fiber, and other nutrients. When corn comes into season during the summer, it's common to see people in supermarkets peeling back husks in search of ears with perfect rows of kernels. Don't do that yourself. Crooked rows taste just as good as straight, and keeping the husk on helps the corn stay sweet. Freshness is a better criterion, since the sugars in corn begin converting into starch the moment it's picked. The best test is to sample some kernels. Frozen corn kernels are a good substitute when fresh corn is out of season, but canned corn is only a fair substitute.
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cracked wheat
cracked wheat
These are cracked whole wheat kernels. They cook faster than wheat berries, but not as fast as bulgur.
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flakes, rolled grains
flakes
These are grains that are steamed, rolled, and flaked. They can be cooked briefly to make a hot cereal, sprinkled on casseroles, or added to granola mixes, cookies, or soups.
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flour
flour
Flours are made from grains or nuts that are finely ground to a powdery consistency. They're used to make breads and other baked goods, but they also serve to thicken stews and sauces and to coat foods about to be fried.
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germ
germ
This is the exceptionally nutritious embryo found within the grain kernel. It contains oil, so it has a relatively short shelf life. Many cooks store small jars of it in the refrigerator, and use small amounts of it to fortify breads and cereals.
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glutinous rice, botan rice, Chinese sweet rice, Japanese rice, mochi rice
glutinous rice
Despite its name, this rice isn't sweet and it doesn't contain gluten. Instead, it's a very sticky, short-grain rice that is widely used by Asians, who use it to make sushi and various desserts. You can buy this as either white or black (actually a rust color) rice.
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grains
grains
grains = cereals = cereal grains Grains form the base of the Food Guide Pyramid, and nutritionists are constantly nagging us to eat more of them. Sure they're a bit bland, but they're high in nutrients, low in fat, and dirt cheap. Cooks usually consign grains to supporting roles, letting them absorb the flavors of other ingredients while adding texture and body. It often helps to toast grains briefly before cooking them so as to bring out the flavor and speed up the cooking time. Most grains have been processed by the time they reach us. The first step at the mill is to remove the inedible outer hull, yielding what's called a whole grain, berry, or groat. Whole grains are nutritious, but they're chewy and slow to cook. To fix that, the nutritious bran layer beneath the hull is sometimes scoured off as well, resulting in a pearled or polished grain. Whole or polished grains are then sometimes ground, rolled, or chopped into flakes, small grits, meal, or flour.
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grits, cracked grains, steel-cut grains
grits
These are grains that have been cut into smaller pieces so they cook faster.
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hato mugi, Job's tears, pressed barley
hato mugi
Look for these large, pressed barley kernels in Asian markets.
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Himalayan red rice
Himalayan red rice
This is a Himalayan version of our long-grain brown rice, only the bran is red, not brown.
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hominy, posole, pozole
hominy
These are hulled corn kernels that have been stripped of their bran and germ. Southern cooks usually boil whole or ground hominy until it's tender, and then they serve it in much the same way that Northern cooks would serve potatoes. Varieties include lye hominy, which is made by soaking corn kernels in a weak lye bath, and pearl hominy, which is made by crushing corn kernels mechanically. White hominy is made from white corn kernels, and the sweeter yellow hominy is made from yellow. Samp is coarsely ground or broken hominy, while hominy grits are more finely ground. You can buy hominy canned or dried.
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hominy grits, corn grits, grits
hominy grits
This Southern staple is made from hominy or plain corn that's been ground until it has the consistency of coarse sand. It's used as a side dish, a breakfast cereal, or as an ingredient in baked goods. Varieties include quick-cooking grits and instant grits.
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hulled barley, barley groats
hulled barley
This is the least processed form of barley, with just the outermost hull removed. While it's chewier and slower to cook than more processed forms of barley, it's rich in fiber and really good for you. Look for it in health food stores.
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instant oats
instant oats
These are very thin, precooked oats that need only be mixed with a hot liquid. They usually have flavorings and salt added. They're convenient, but not as chewy and flavorful as slower-cooking oats.
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instant rice, precooked rice
instant rice
This is white rice that's been precooked and dehydrated so that it cooks quickly. It's relatively expensive, though, and you sacrifice both flavor and texture. White instant rice cooks in about five minutes, brown in about ten. Minute Rice is a well-known brand.
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jasmine rice, Thai basmati rice, Thai jasmine rice
jasmine rice
Jasmine rice is a long-grain rice produced in Thailand that's sometimes used as a cheap substitute for basmati rice. It has a subtle floral aroma. It's sold as both a brown and white rice.
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kalijira rice, baby basmati rice
kalijira rice
This tiny aromatic rice is grown in Bangladesh. It cooks fast and is especially good in rice puddings.
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kamut® brand berries
kamut® brand berries
Though this contains gluten, it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies. But even people who aren't troubled by allergies often prefer this sweet, buttery grain to wheat.
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kamut® brand flakes
kamut® brand flakes
This has a sweet, nutty flavor and lots of protein. Though it contains gluten, it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies.
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kamut® brand wheat
kamut® brand wheat
This ancient grain is related to durum wheat, and was reintroduced to the world after an American found some kernels of it in an Egyptian tomb. It's high in protein and has a sweet, buttery flavor. Though it contains gluten, it's tolerated by many people with gluten allergies.
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kasha, kasza, roasted buckwheat groats, toasted buckwheat groats
kasha
This is the Russian name for buckwheat groats that have been toasted in oil to remove buckwheat's natural bitterness and to bring out a sweeter, nuttier flavor. They come whole or crushed into a coarse, medium, or fine grain.
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long-grain rice
long-grain rice
Long-grain rice has slender grains that stay separate and fluffy after cooking, so this is the best choice if you want to serve rice as a side dish, or as a bed for sauces. American long-grain rice (which includes Carolina rice) has a somewhat bland flavor, and is what cookbooks usually have in mind when they call for long-grain rice. Patna rice is a mild rice grown in India. Basmati rice, another Indian import, has a nutty taste and goes well with many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Jasmine rice is also aromatic, and usually less expensive than Basmati. It often accompanies Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Americans have crossed Basmati with American long-grain rice to get popcorn rice, which is milder and less expensive than basmati. Another hybrid is wild pecan rice, which retain most of the bran for a nutty, chewy flavor.
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meal
meal
These are whole grains that are ground until they have the consistency of sand. They're then used to make hot cereals and breads. Stone-ground meal is ground between stones, giving it a grittier consistency.
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medium-grain rice
medium-grain rice
Medium-grain rice is shorter and stickier than long-grain rice. It's great for making paella and risotto.
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millet
millet
Unhulled millet is widely used as birdseed, but many health food stores carry hulled millet for human consumption. It's nutritious and gluten-free, and has a very mild flavor that can be improved by toasting the grains.
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nixtamal, uncooked posole
nixtamal
This is made with dried corn that's been simmered in a solution of lime and water. This loosens the hulls from the corn kernels and makes the kernels softer and more nutritious. Mexican cooks grind nixtamal into masa, which they use to make tortillas.
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oat groats, whole oat groats, whole oats
oat groats
Oat groats are minimally processed--only the outer hull is removed. They're very nutritious, but they're chewy and need to be soaked and cooked a long time.
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Oats
Oats
Oats are highly nutritious and filled with cholesterol-fighting soluble fiber. They also have a pleasant, nutty flavor. Most of us are familiar with rolled oats, which are used as a hot breakfast cereal and cookie ingredient, but many health food stores also stock oat groats and oat bran.
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Patna rice
Patna rice
This is a long-grain rice grown in India.
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