Fat is no longer a villain. It not only brings a lot of flavors to the table, but it’s pretty healthy for your body. It helps you absorb a lot of vitamins and minerals. So if you’re in want of cooking tastier whole grains, fat is the one thing that will help you immensely.
Just like fat, grains have been getting a nasty reputation over the years, mostly because they have a high content of carbs. But carbs in and of themselves aren’t bad. When carbs are called evil, people mostly refer to refined carbs, not the ones that are found in items like whole grains. In fact, whole grains are very healthy for you, they're believed to protect your heart, they lower the risk of diabetes, colon cancer, and scientists are even exploring the ways whole grains can help lower your asthma and Alzheimer’s risk. So why not make tastier whole grains at home?
Whole wheat, whole oats, brown rice, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, and bulgur – to name just a few – have antioxidants that fight inflammation and full of nutritious things for your body. The high fiber content is one that your digestion needs!
This brings us to how to cook the whole grains. A lot of them, when boiled don’t have the best taste. Actually, they might have no flavor at all. But if you want to benefit from their nutrients, there’s another way to cooking them, one that might actually make a great meal out of them. And who doesn’t want to have great flavor and nourishment on the same plate?
Pre-cook your grains
If you pre-cook your grains, in a large batch, for the whole week, you even save time. The idea is to boil a big pot of water, with plenty of salt to give flavor, and then pre-cook the grains as a first step. You can also cook them in some stock for a bit of flavor. If you have some homemade one on hand, that is. I’m not a fan of the store-bought stock.
You don’t want the grains to turn out mushy thanks to their starches, so don’t stir the water when you’re boiling the whole grains. The thing you’re looking for is an al dente consistency, that would mean they’re still ready for a bit more heat in the future.
Once cooked, you need to drain the grains thoroughly and this is when you have a base for a wide variety of amazing dishes that involve tastier whole grains.
Cooking tastier whole grains in the skillet
The next thing you need is exactly what we’ve talked about: fat. It has a way of channeling the flavor of other ingredients cooked in it and it can bring those flavors to your grains. That’s why you need to drain the grains because water and fat don’t mix near heat. Or anywhere else for that matter.
Choose the best kind of fat for this job: one with a high smoke point so that it won’t burn. That means either vegetable oil, bacon fat, or pure olive oil. Heat up the skillet a little, and add the fat. Now, which flavors do you want on your grains? Choose your favorite aromas and sautee them in the skillet when the fat is hot. I find that onions and garlic work for anything. But you can add other things as well, like ginger, chiles or spices.
When the stuff in the skillet starts to emanate aromas, and the onions have softened, add the grains to the skillet. You want them to be coated with the flavors a little, so what you have to do is stir constantly for a couple of minutes. That’s all it takes. You just need the grains to pick up a bit of the oil, but you want all the grains to do that! Don’t forget to season them with salt and pepper to taste.
The grains will turn a golden color and will no longer be bland: visually, or when it comes to their flavor. All you have to do now is remove them from the skillet and add a few fresh herbs to the proceedings. Feel free to add a sauce, some meat or some roasted vegetables and make a great meal out of it!