How to Cook Grains Simply
and With “Extras”
Whole grains are great to add nutrients and fiber to our diets, and most cook fairly simply. Try some of the following as simple, wholesome, no fuss additions to your meals.
In a large saucepan over medium high heat, bring 1 cup of barley and 2 ½ cups of water or broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the barley, covered, for 35-50 minutes or until it’s as tender as you'd like it.
In a large saucepan, bring 1 cup of brown rice and 2 ½ cups of water or broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the rice until it’s tender and most of the liquid is gone, about 45 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat, fluff it with a fork, and let it stand for about 5 minutes, covered. Fluff the rice again before serving it.
In a large saucepan over medium high heat, bring 1 cup of bulgur and 1 ½ cups of water or broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the bulgur, covered, until it’s tender and most of the liquid is gone—10-15 minutes.
In a large saucepan, bring 4-5 cups of water or broth to a boil. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of cornmeal—white or yellow. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the cornmeal, stirring it periodically, for 10-15 minutes or until it's thick and creamy.
In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of quick-cooking grits, returning the pot to a boil (be careful not to let the hot grits splash you!). Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Stir the grits periodically and cook them for 5-10 minutes more or until they are thick and creamy.
Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in cold water (I do this in a mesh strainer). Add the quinoa and 2 cups of water or broth to a large saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the quinoa for 15-20 minutes or until it’s tender and most of the liquid is gone. Fluff the quinoa with a fork.
Sort through 2 cups of wheat berries, discarding any stones or other strange things. Rinse the wheat berries well under cool, running water. Place them in a large pot and add 1 teaspoon of salt and water to cover the wheat berries by at least 2 inches. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Stir, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Drain and rinse the wheat berries.
In a large saucepan, bring 1 ½-2 cups of water or broth to a boil (or use a microwave-safe container and bring the liquid to a boil in the microwave). Stir in 1 ½ cups of the couscous, cover the container, and let the couscous stand for about 5 minutes or until it absorbs the liquid. Fluff the couscous with a fork.
In a large saucepan, bring 1 cup of wild rice and 4-5 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and let the rice simmer for 45-55 minutes or until tender. Drain any excess water before serving the rice.
You can of course add salt (not too much) to your grains and perhaps some olive oil or butter (before cooking the grains). Cooking the grains in different broths will increase the flavor of your final dish. Once the grains are cooked, you also can add herbs, spices, vegetables, dried fruits, and cheeses. Experiment to see what you like. Try some of the following:
½ cup each of dried apricots and walnuts, 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and orange zest, and a tablespoon of olive oil.
½ cup of cilantro, ¼ cup lime juice, 1 teaspoon each of cumin and lime zest, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
½ cup each of shredded carrot, chopped onion, and chopped celery and ¼ cup of raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
1 teaspoon of curry powder, ¼ cup of orange juice, ¼ cup of chopped green onions, and 1 cup of thawed frozen peas.
3 cups of fresh spinach and ¼ cup of feta cheese.
½ cup of light sour cream and ½ cup of cheddar, Swiss, or Gouda cheese
½ cup of light sour cream and ¼ cup of shredded or grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
½ cup each chopped apricots, dried cranberries, and chopped toasted walnuts plus ¼ cup of orange juice and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
½ cup each chopped parsley and mint leaves, a cup of halved cherry or grape tomatoes, a smallish chopped red onion, ¼ cup of crumbled feta cheese, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.