Okay, so the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association recently weighed in on upcoming food trends with the results of a survey of Canadian chefs. I didn't find out about this by being a regular reader of the Association's website, but by reading 10 foods for the future, a recent article in the Vancouver Sun. And what's on the top of their list? Ancient Grains. Grains or seeds that are as old as the dirt they grow in and that haven't been altered by plant science.
For vegetarians or adventurous cooks, using an ancient grain in place of what you may usually cook with can enliven a dish and add a new (old) taste and texture. They provide a great alternative for people who suffer from allergies to more common grains and are often a richer source of nutrients than conventional grains too. And perhaps most important, buying ancient grains encourages plant biodiversity, a rapidly shrinking fact of our modern agriculture.
The most commonly found ancient grains are...
All of these can be found in a natural health food store such as Lifestyles Market or a grocery store with a good bulk section.
Amaranth is a tiny, grain-like seed with a nutty, malty flavor. This grain is rich in iron, protein and calcium, and its flour makes a great substitute for wheat flour.
Barley is the oldest of all grains and is perhaps the most popular as an addition to soups and stews. It has a nutty flavor, chewy texture and is a good source of fiber, selenium, phosphorus, copper and manganese.
Chia seeds are fast becoming the darling of the ancient grains (and my brother-in-laws favorite ancient grain). It's high in protein, antioxidant, mineral and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This is a plant in the mint family of herbs originating in Mexico and cultivated by the Aztecs. The Mayan word for Chia is ‘strength’; ancient civilizations used them for stamina. Chia seeds gradually release slow-burning glucose into the bloodstream for long-lasting endurance.
Kamut is a larger grain, and looks and tastes like a thick rice. It's great in salads and vegetable dishes. See the recipe for Kamut with Sautéed Winter Vegetables below.
Millet is the smallest of all grains and it has been and eaten since prehistoric times. When cooked, millet can either be fluffy like rice or creamy like polenta (by stirring it frequently and adding a little water and milk).
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a grain with a mild, nutty flavor and a creamy, slightly crunchy texture. It's high in protein and calcium- and actually, one cup of cooked quinoa has the same amount of calcium in a quart of milk. For a recipe, try this recent fav of mine for quinoa stir-fry with grilled chicken and vegetables.
Spelt is a grain with a pleasant, mild, nutty flavor that dates back before even wheat. Although it can be used in many of the same ways as wheat, it has a broader spectrum of nutrients and it is a great substitute for people with an intolerance to wheat. It's rich in vitamin B2 and manganese.
Kamut with Sautéed Winter Vegetables (serves 6)
adapted slightly from Vitality Magazine
1 1/4 cup kamut kernels
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
In a saucepan, combine kamut and stock. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Bring stock and kamut to room temperature. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes or until kamut is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Drain, rinse and let cool.
In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, zucchini, peas and corn. Sauté for 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp.
Stir in kamut, parsley and tamari and heat through. Serve immediately or chill before serving.