Great Grains!

25. October 2010

Tom and I recently returned from the trip of a lifetime. (click on the “GO” section for more.) Our tour of the Holy land was not only a historical and spiritual encounter… it was also an epicurean delight!

Everywhere… fresh vegetables and fruits, fantastic fish and whole grains in every configuration you can imagine! All through Israel, we noshed on couscous, bulgur, quinoa (keen-WHA) and spelt. In hot dishes and salads, these great grains started to grow on me.

Now I’m slowly breaking free of my tired old rice and pasta “sides” and experimenting with some “new” grains that have actually been around for millennia! (Today you can find them in the bulk bins at your favorite health food store.) Here are my favorites:


This pasta-like semolina product with North African roots is as versatile as rice and cooks in a hurry! Just add boiling water, cover, wait a few minutes… fluff with a fork and serve. I found whole wheat versions at “Whole Foods.”


Tabouleh is how many of us know about bulgur. It’s a nutty-flavored wheat grain. Bulgur is super-nutritious… high in fiber and protein. It’s fun to experiment with and easy to prepare.


Quinoa is a delicate-tasting South American staple that’s eaten like a grain… but is actually a seed with the husk removed. It’s full of protein and is an excellent source of essential amino acids. It’s also higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbs than other grains.

I’m still trying out new recipes…but these two passed the “husband” test. See if you agree with Tom!

Bulgur, Pine Nut and Red Pepper Pilaf


1 small onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken broth
3 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
¾ cup bulgur
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted lightly
2 teaspoons minced fresh chives


In a small heavy saucepan, cook onion in oil over moderate heat… stirring until softened.

Stir in broth, bell pepper and bulgur and bring liquid to a boil. Cook mixture, covered, over low heat 12 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Stir in pine nuts, chives and salt and pepper; to taste. (SO easy!)

Couscous Vegetable Salad


½ cup couscous (3 ounces)
¾ cup boiling water
½ cup ¼-inch pieces zucchini
½ cup ¼-inch pieces red bell pepper
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup purchased olive oil vinaigrette


Place couscous in medium bowl. Pour boiling water over; stir to blend. Cover bowl; let stand until water is absorbed… about 10 minutes. Fluff with fork. Mix in zucchini, bell pepper, onion and cumin. Pour vinaigrette over; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.)

I found these recipes initially online at… but have made them my own by adding different veggies, nuts and cheese on my own.
Let me know what you think, and send me your favorite great grain dish!

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