Project Description

Amazing Grains – Whole Dish Grains

Amazing Grains

The art of creating main dishes with whole, non-gluten and pseudo grains.

Overview

The goal of this process is to study infinite possibilities of cooking dish grains, maintaining their whole form.

The process includes learning how to manipulate the elements of texture, taste, and color with quinoa, millet, rices, buckwheat, amaranth, oats, and others, to create original dishes.

Details and Inspiration

In 1980, USA, eating grains in their energetically whole form was rare. It was easy to find white rice on a restaurant’s menu, and “brown” rice was starting to appear in Chinese restaurants and health food stores and restaurants. The possibility of manipulating color, texture, and taste was not yet even a thought for cooks preparing this neutral-flavored ingredient. Rice only provided a background for something more colorful, more “meaty.” Rice was simply a filler.

And I, as a consumer interested in health, was not supposed to notice that brown rice was usually bland, pasty, or dry—because it was “healthy.” But…I did.

A few years later, I worked for the company that first brought Quinoa to the USA. My responsibilities included managing the scheduling and training of people to set up demonstrations about Quinoa, in every kind of grocery store — both health food stores and regular large chain supermarkets. In this position, I created recipes for the demonstration staff to cook and offer samples to each customer that had enough curiosity to step up to the table. “Cook quinoa like rice, boil it” we told the customer. But that standard wasn’t good enough. Rice cooking was often boring, bad technique, and had the wrong water ratio.

Unlike rice, the first hurdle in gaining acceptance and enthusiasm about using quinoa was that, unlike rice that has a sweet taste, it has an undeniably bitter taste. How will America, land of sugar-laced breakfast cereals, embrace the bitter taste if they are hooked on the sweet carbohydrate of refined grains? If both coffee and chocolate—two extremely popular high-profile foods that had clearly proven a bitter taste could be popular both unsweetened and without adding too much sugar—there had to be a way for quinoa to shine. Now, today, almost every deli serving quinoa makes it into a salad. That was our demo in 1982.

I love the personal flair and daring of the dishes prepared by our students because they demonstrate a bold, confident, on-target assembly of technique and flavors. There is nothing boring about quinoa, rice, buckwheat, amaranth, oats and millet dishes. On the contrary, these whole foods are full of potential. These grains are cultural heroes, too. Stories of their history are embedded into the library of our school’s classroom.