Grains Category

Grains

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Grains form the base of the Food Guide Pyramid, and nutritionists are constantly nagging us to eat more of them, since 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.

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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pearl barley, pearled barley
pearl barley
This is the most common form of barley, but not the most nutritious. While hulled barley loses only the thick outer hull in the milling process, pearl barley is stripped of the nutritious bran layer as well, leaving just the "pearl" inside. Despite this, it's still fairly nutritious. It takes about an hour to cook.
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pearled grains
pearled grains
These are more processed than whole grains. This makes them less nutritious but they cook up faster and have a more tender texture.
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pinipig, pounded dried rice, young rice flakes
pinipig
Filipino cooks use these glutinous rice flakes to make desserts and drinks.
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popcorn
popcorn
Air-popped popcorn is a terrific snack that's high in fiber and low in fat -- assuming that you don't add lots of butter and salt.
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popcorn rice
popcorn rice
This rice is a cross between basmati and American long-grain. It can be found as a brown rice or a polished white rice. Common brands include Texmati, Delta Rose, and Cajun Country Popcorn. The name popcorn refers to the taste not the apperance.
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pot barley, Scotch barley
pot barley
This isn't as heavily processed as pearl barley, in that the endosperm is left intact, along with the inner pearl of the kernel. It takes about an hour to cook. Look for it in health food stores.
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psyllium seed husks, flea seed, plantago seed husks, PSH
psyllium seed husks
This is a good source of soluble fiber, and is often used as a laxative. Make sure you drink lots of water along with it.
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puffed rice
puffed rice
Look for this in Indian markets. Substitutes: Rice Krispies
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purple corn, maiz morado
purple corn
Peruvians use this to make beautiful purple drinks and puddings
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quick oats, easy oats, quick oatmeal, quick-cooking oatmeal, quick-cooking oats
quick oats
These are thin flakes of oatmeal that cook up in about three or four minutes. They're a good choice for oatmeal cookies.
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quick-cooking barley
quick-cooking barley
This is similar to pearl barley in taste and nutrients, but it only takes about 10 minutes to cook since it's been pre-steamed. It's often served either hot as a side dish or cold in a salad.
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quinoa, hie
quinoa
This ancient seed was a staple of the Incas. It cooks quickly and has a mild flavor and a delightful, slightly crunchy, texture. It's got a lot of the amino acid lysine, so it provides a more complete protein than many other cereal grains. It comes in different colors, ranging from a pale yellow to red to black. Rinse quinoa before using to remove its bitter natural coating.
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quinoa flakes
quinoa flakes
This is steamed, rolled, and flaked quinoa. It's used like oatmeal to make a hot cereal.
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Rice
Rice
Rice is the most important food crop in Asia. It can be cooked whole and served with stir-fries, sauces, and curries, or made into flour, wine, cakes, vinegar, milk, flakes, noodles, paper, and tea. Rice is classified mostly by the size of the grain. Long-grain rice is long and slender. The grains 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. Medium-grain rice is shorter and plumper, and works well in paella and risotto. Short-grain rice is almost round, with moist grains that stick together when cooked. It's the best choice for rice pudding and molded salads. Other specialty varieties include Spanish rice for paella, glutinous rice for sushi and rice balls, and risotto rice for risotto. Most varieties are sold as either brown or white rice, depending upon how they are milled. Brown rice retains the bran that surrounds the kernel, making it chewier, nuttier, and richer in nutrients. White rice lacks the bran and germ, but is more tender and delicate. It's less nutritious than brown rice, but you can partially compensate for that by getting enriched white rice. Brown rice takes about twice as long to cook as white rice. Converted rice is beige. It tastes a lot like white rice, but it has more nutrients. Instant rice is white rice that's been precooked and dehydrated. It's convenient, but expensive and bland.
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risotto rice, Arborio rice, Carnaroli rice, nano, Padano rice, Piedmont rice
risotto 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, but Carnaroli, Roma, Baldo, Padano, and vialone nano = nano are also good. The highest Italian risotto rice grade is superfino. Lesser grades are (in descending order) fino, semi-fino, and commune. You can sometimes find brown risotto rice, which has more fiber and nutrients, but it isn't nearly as creamy as white risotto rice. Never rinse risotto rice--you'll wash off the starch that gives it such a creamy consistency.
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rolled oats, flaked oatmeal, flaked oats, oatflakes, oatmeal
rolled oats
These are oat groats that are steamed, rolled, and flaked so that they cook quickly. They're often cooked as a breakfast cereal, added raw to granola or muesli mixes, or used to make oatmeal cookies. Regular rolled oats take about five minutes to cook. If you're in a hurry, try quick oats or instant oats. These have thinner flakes, so they cook faster
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Rye
Rye
Rye isn't as nutritious as other grains, but it's hardy enough to grow in very cold climates. This has made it a staple of Northern Europeans, who use it to make breads, crackers, and whiskey. It has a distinctive, hearty flavor that's best when combined with other assertive ingredients.
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rye berries, whole rye berries
rye berries
Soak these overnight before cooking. Soaked and cooked rye berries are sometimes added to breads for extra texture, or used to make pilafs or hot breakfast cereals.
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rye flakes, rolled rye
rye flakes
These are often combined with other grains, then cooked to make a hot breakfast cereal.
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short-grain rice, pearl rice, round grain rice
short-grain rice
This is sticky, though not as much as glutinous rice. It's a good choice if you're making sushi or rice pudding, and it also works pretty well in a risotto or paella. Brown short-grain rice isn't as sticky.
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soft wheat berries, pastry berries
soft wheat berries
These are softer than hard wheat berries.
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Spanish rice, paella rice
Spanish rice
This is a medium-grain rice that's perfectly suited to making paella. Varieties include include Granza rice, and the highly regarded (but difficult to find) Valencia rice.
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Spelt, dinkle, farro, German wheat
spelt
Spelt has been around for thousands of years, but it's recently enjoying a resurgence in popularity. It's believed to be a relative of wheat, and it tastes like a mild version of it. Though it contains gluten, it's tolerated by many people who are allergic to gluten.
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spelt berries, spelt kernels
spelt berries
Spelt has a nutty flavor, similar to that of wheat. Though it contains gluten, it's often tolerated by people with wheat allergies.
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spelt flakes, rolled spelt
spelt flakes
Like rolled oats, spelt flakes are commonly cooked to make a hot breakfast cereal.
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sprouting barley
sprouting barley
This is unrefined barley, used for making barley sprouts. Don't try to cook with it--it's got a very thick hull.
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steel-cut oats, coarse-cut oatmeal, coarse-cut oats, Irish oatmeal, Irish oats
steel-cut oats
These are groats that have been chopped into small pieces. They're chewier than rolled oats, and grain aficionados often prefer them for hot oatmeal cereals and muesli
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teff, annual bunch grass, Williams lovegrass
teff
This Ethiopian staple is the world's smallest grain. Since it's too tiny to process, teff isn't stripped of nutrients like other, more refined grains. As a result, it's a nutritional powerhouse, especially rich in protein and calcium, and it's gluten-free. It has a sweet, nutty flavor and is sometimes eaten as a hot breakfast cereal. It comes in different colors that range from creamy white to reddish-brown.
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Thai purple sticky rice, Thai black glutinous rice, Thai black sticky rice
Thai purple sticky rice
This turns a rich dark purple when cooked. The color bleeds, so it's best to pair it with other dark ingredients. Thai cooks often use it in desserts.
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triticale
triticale
Triticale is a wheat-rye cross that's higher in protein than either of its parents. It has a pleasant enough wheat-like flavor, but it's prized mostly for its hardiness and ability to grow in poor soils.
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