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No Plain Grains Here

No Plain Grains Here

How three operators are dressing up grain salads in delicious ways, plus their tips on cooking with grains.

Richard Jarmusz
Executive Chef
Fletcher Allen Health Care
Burlington, VT

“We use all kinds of grains at Fletcher Allen Health Care, from quinoa to wheat berries to barley and rice.

“Grains blend well with all kinds of herbs and spices. We feature side salads for entrees, and it's good to offer a healthier choice, other than your basic starch. Grain salads are available on the salad bar as well, and we offer at least two different ones every day.

“When you cook grains until they are tender, but still have a little crunch or snap, that's grain perfection.

“My choice for grain is wheat berries. I like to use them in savory salads, soups and side dishes and also as a main dish. They're whole, unprocessed wheat kernels with a chewy, firm texture and nutty flavor. If you cook them ahead, you can store them in the refrigerator or freezer for a quick, hearty add-in for salads, soups or for a quick side dish.

“I used a lot of grain dishes in the cookbook I recently co-authored with Diane Imrie, Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011. (see recipe this page, for Wheat Berry Salad with Summer Vegetables and Garden Herbs)

Lynne Duda
Nutrition Services Director
Willamina School District 30J
Willamina, OR

“We like to serve tabouleh because it's a learning experience for students. It shows that not all salads are made of lettuce and ranch, and that grains don't have to be just bread and cereal. Tabouleh salad contains bulgur, fresh tomatoes, diced cucumbers, parsley, chopped onions, cumin, lemon juice and fresh mint. The mint and lemon juice really give it a refreshing taste. It's a versatile recipe and you can mix the grains up. For example, try half bulgur and half quinoa.

“I first made this at a USDA recipes workshop and found it really easy to prepare and a great way to increase the variety of grains in my students' diets. It's also a nutritious choice for those on gluten-free diets.

“A few students and staff were familiar with tabouleh already, and they became positive role models for more people to try it.

“It's a great convenience to prepare any grain salad ahead of time, during your downtime. My tips for preparing grain salads are: Don't overcook the grains; use quality, fresh ingredients so it tastes good and looks enticing; and try red and black quinoa to add some color to otherwise plain grains. The trick to quinoa is that sometimes people forget to rinse it very well before cooking. Rinse it so it isn't bitter. This makes a big difference.”

Meagan Worth-Cappell
Executive Chef
AVI Foodsystems Inc.
Kenyon College
Gambier, OH

“I make a Toasted Quinoa and Barley Salad that can be served both hot as a starch and cold as a salad. It's great because it has a touch of smoky spice, thanks to two chile powders (ancho and chipotle), along with flavors of roasted garlic and minced fresh ginger. A sweet vinaigrette, made with raspberry and white balsamic vinegars brings out the earthy flavors of the grains in the salad. We're able to get both barley and quinoa from local suppliers.

“I toast the grains to bring out the nuttiness of the barley and the earthiness of the quinoa even more. When cooking grains, always cook them in a broth, because they will soak up all the flavors they are being boiled with. Err on the al dente side, rather than overcooking your grains. I watch my grains carefully, especially when I'm doing larger batches. Quinoa can go from perfect to overcooked very easily. About 5 to 7 minutes after it comes to a boil, you will notice the center of yellow quinoa will have a white dot, like it has sprouted. Barley takes about 15 minutes to come to al dente.

“Quinoa is an amazing grain for people who are trying to lose weight or just eat better without giving up flavor. I had some students taste the salad and they were super happy and asked if I could translate the salad to something they could see on a regular basis. I decided to serve the whole student population and we now serve grains about 5 to 7 times a week, not including the local grits and oatmeal at breakfast.”

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