Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Green and amber and gold it grows...




 I like the way my grains look here, all lined up in their jars.  I'd taken them out to search for wheatberries, which I didn't find, but I had plenty of other grains and was able to make a splendid supper. The grains above are, from left to right, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, barley, popcorn (grown by my farmer-friend Sara and probably destined for caramel popcorn balls), millet, and flax.

We've been eating a lot of grains lately, and Justin-the-carnivore allows as how a meatless diet wouldn't be entirely miserable for him.  He also has acknowledged that mushrooms are edible when they are distilled into roasted vegetable stock.  He's eaten far more mushrooms than he knows about, to be honest, but I doubt he'll ever tuck into a mushroom turnover with gusto.  Or anything short of loathing.  Which is a shame because I've been improving my pastry skills lately, and mushrooms are a natural filling for savory pies.

Anyway, for a (relatively) cheap and easy meal that is very filling and entirely vegan, you can't beat a pilaf. The main thing is to have a very nice vegetable stock, which is pretty easy to make well.  I prefer roasting my veggies and then simmering, but you can make a super-fast version with a few aromatics and a handful of herbs.  I use Mark Bittman's roasted vegetable stock recipe as a template -- it's in his How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Once you have a good stock (it's a good idea to make a ton of it and then freeze it in 1-2 qt portions) you can follow the basic pilaf method of sauteing the grains with or without aromatics, then adding the stock and any additional vegetables.  Finish with chopped parsley or any other herb.  Serve with something bright green, like lightly steamed broccoli, chard, or spinach if you like. 

Barley and Wild Rice Pilaf

olive oil, and lots of it!
1 small to medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4-6 carrots, chopped
2 turnips, chopped
1 cup hulled barley (pearled can be used, but it cooks faster, so add it after the rice has cooked 20 minutes or so.)
1/4-1/2 cup wild rice
1 qt. vegetable stock
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Working in batches if necessary, saute all the veggies, seasoning with a little salt and pepper. I did the onions, celery, and carrot (the mirepoix) together, then moved them to a bowl while I sauteed the turnips.   I use about 2T olive oil for each batch of vegetables.  You want to cook as many as you can without crowding them and if you have a big enough pot you can do them all at once.  The turnips I like to cook until very soft and golden.   Once the veggies are cooked, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, and add the grains.  Saute them, stirring continuously for about a minute before adding all of the veggies back in, then the broth.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover the pot.  Hulled barley and wild rice should take about 45 minutes to cook, possibly longer.  Be ready to add extra broth or water if the mixture dries out before the grains are tender.  Adjust the salt and pepper and then add the minced parsley off heat. 

dinner tonight is Robin's birthday dinner.  He requested spaghetti and meatballs, and a cocoa buttermilk cake with chocolate-malted icing.