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Whole Grains Cooking Can be Great
Whole Grains Cooking Can be Great



by Max & Rosie Beeby

An Introduction to Whole Grains

Whole grains comprise about 60 percent of my diet and are the basis for most vegetarian diets. They are tasty and nutritious, supplying vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. In contrast, refined grains such as white rice, couscous, or pearled barley are stripped of their bran and germ, causing a dramatic loss of nutrients. This is not to say never eat refined grains, as their taste is quite good; just don’t eat them on a regular basis.

When thinking of whole grains most people think of brown rice, but the list of possible grains is lengthy. We have available to us many types of rice, including short, medium, and long-grain brown rice, arborio rice, sushi rice, sweet rice, and white and brown basmati rice. There are also amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn grits, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, and spelt—and more. It’s worth a trip to your local natural foods store just to see what these different grains look like. And then, of course, you can start experimenting with them. They all have distinctively different tastes and textures.

When cooking whole grains, you should first rinse them thoroughly to remove dirt, especially if you are buying from bulk bins. Some grains, like quinoa, need to be rinsed to remove their bitter natural coating. Choose a heavy pot (not aluminum) with a tight-fitting lid. Pour the grains into the pot, add cold water to cover, and swish the grains in a circular motion with your hand. Drain the water by pouring the grains into a colander. Return the grains to the pot, add the proper amount of water for cooking, add a pinch of sea salt, which enhances the flavor and improves the digestibility of the grains, and cover. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and continue to cook, covered, for the time specified in the Grain Cooking Chart (see below).

There is no need to uncover the pot or mix the grains while they are cooking. When all of the water is absorbed, remove the grains from the pot and spoon them into a wooden or ceramic bowl to aerate before serving. The Grain Cooking Chart gives specific cooking times, but keep in mind that these times may differ depending on the type of stove you use, the quantity of grains you cook, the simmering temperature, or heat escape due to lifting the lid while cooking. So use the chart as a guide when checking the grains for doneness. Use leftover grains in soups, stews, or burritos! They should last at least three days after cooking, if stored in the refrigerator.

Lastly, a quick word about chewing. Grains need to be chewed more thoroughly than other foods for proper digestion. Many people switching to diets based on whole grains complain of gas and bloating because they don’t chew their food well. It is important to relax at mealtime, slow down, sit down, and pay attention (and give thanks for your food). It makes a tremendous difference.

Grain Cooking Chart
(1 cup dry)  (cups)  (minutes)  (cups)
Amaranth 2 25-30 2-21/2
Barley, whole/hulled 3  90 31/2-4
Barley, pearled  3   45 31/2-4
Buckwheat groats 2 15 2-21/2
Corn grits 3 20 31/2-4
Kamut 3 120 23/4
Millet 21/2 25 31/2-4
Oats, whole 3 60 3
Oats, rolled (oatmeal) 2 15 11/2-2
Quinoa 2 20 3-31/2


Arborio*  21/2 30 2-21/2
Basmati, brown 2 45 31/2
Basmati, white 13/4 15 31/2
Brown, short-,
medium-, long-grain 2 45 21/2-3
Sushi 2 45 2
Sweet 11/2 45 2
Spelt 3 90-120 21/2


Whole berries 3 90-120 21/2
Bulgur 2 15 21/2
Couscous 2 1 21/2-3

* Arborio rice must be stirred continually during cooking.

The average age (longevity) of a meat eater is 63. I am on the verge of 85 and still work as hard as ever. I have lived quite long enough and I am trying to die, but I simply cannot do it. A single beef-steak would finish me, but I cannot bring myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with a dread of living forever. This is the only disadvantage to vegetarianism.

—George Bernard Shaw


Sesame Stir-Fry over Brown Rice

Serves 4

This is a simple recipe to begin your exploration of cooking with brown rice. It uses lots of fresh vegetables to produce a dish that is both colorful and tasty. This is a great dish for beginners to make to impress their guests!

1 cup short-grain brown rice
2 cups water
1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
2 small yellow squash, trimmed and sliced
1 carrot, cut in matchsticks
2 to 3 tablespoons tamari
2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 small red cabbage, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed ginger juice 
Unhulled sesame seeds for garnish

Combine the rice and water and cook according to the Grain Cooking Chart (see above). Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and onion and quick sauté for a few minutes. Add the squash, carrot, and tamari and sauté a few minutes more, or until the carrot brightens in color. Add the broccoli and continue to sauté for 5 minutes, or until the broccoli begins to turn a bright green color. Add the red cabbage. Sauté for 2 minutes, until the cabbage is bright in color. Stir in the ginger juice and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately over the rice.


Vegetable Medley over Basmati Rice

Serves 4 to 6

Although we don’t use white basmati rice on a daily basis, it is a delicious tasting rice with a sort of nutty flavor. It goes especially well with garbanzo bean and lentil dishes.

11/2 cups white basmati rice
3 cups water
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, halved
4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 butternut squash, seeded and cubed
1 carrot, cut in matchsticks
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained 
1 cup packed chopped kale
1 cup soy milk
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Combine the rice and water and cook according to the Grain Cooking Chart. In a vegetable steamer, steam the brussels sprouts for 5 minutes, until bright green but still crisp. Set aside and let cool. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the garlic, mushrooms, butternut squash, and carrot and sauté for 5 minutes, until tender. Add the garbanzo beans and kale and sauté for a few minutes more, until the kale is bright green. Add the brussels sprouts and lower the heat. In a bowl, mix together the soy milk, tamari, and nutritional yeast. Pour over the vegetable medley and cover. Remove from the heat and let stand for 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and serve over the rice.


Winter Stew

Serves 4 to 6

This dish is named appropriately because I use mostly root vegetables that are readily available throughout the winter. It is a dish to warm you up, not something you would want to eat in the hot weather. The vegetables are sweet, giving the stew a mildly sweet but savory taste.

1 to 2 tablespoons light sesame oil
1 large white onion, diced
1 carrot, chopped
4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 parsnip, chopped
1/2 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
31/2 cups water
2 tablespoons chickpea or light barley miso
1 cup cooked navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed ginger juice
Fresh watercress for garnish

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and mushrooms and sauté for 1 minute. Add the parsnip, rutabaga, sweet potato, barley, bay leaves, cumin, and water. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for approximately 1 hour. Remove 2 cups of the cooked vegetables and broth and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot, add the beans and ginger juice, and let simmer for a few more minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Serve in individual bowls and garnish with watercress.

From Café Max & Rosie’s Vegetarian Cooking with Health and Spirit, by Max and Rosie Beeby. Copyright © 2000 by Max and Rosie Beeby. Excerpted by arrangement with Ten Speed Press. $19.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800-841-2665 or click here.



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