Gluten-free flour, specifically Tom Sawyer brand, is the basis for many recipes by a popular local food company.
There’s more than baking, though, in “The Sterling Silver Food Company Gluten Free Guide and Cookbook,” featured this week in A la Carte. Author Nancy Shulenberger appropriately is known for her baked goods, but she has years of experience devising gluten-free menus for her family. The book’s section on alternative grains is a nice primer for anyone embarking on this lifestyle.
Whole grains, gluten-free and otherwise, also are the focus of the new book “Amazing Grains: From Classic to Contemporary, Wholesome Recipes for Every Day,” by Ghillie James (Kyle Books, $29.95).
Tackling more than a dozen grains, James also includes amaranth, buckwheat, chia and quinoa, often called “pseudograins,” for their similar nutrient profile but also because they can be used in ways similar to cereals.
For whole-foods cooks, much of this is old hat. But I found a recent Chicago Tribune article on James’ book interesting for its explanation of how to combine more than one grain in a variety of dishes.
Turns out, there is a method to mixing and matching grains. Using a mix of whole and pearled grains or pseudograins makes a recipe lighter, delivers more flavor and maximizes nutrients, says James. She also likes to combine grains and legumes.
For example, James likes to mix mild, crunchy quinoa with the nutty, slightly malty amaranth in a salad with roasted pumpkin wedges and macadamia nuts. In another salad, she mixes nutty, earthy buckwheat with mild quinoa before adding green beans, arugula, peaches, mozzarella and prosciutto.
There are a few caveats. Follow grain-cooking instructions for precise results. If a number of grains are boiled together, you can risk a “stodgy mess!” This is why some recipes cook different grains separately before combining them, although quick-cooking grains can be added later to a pot of slow-cooking grains.
And pay attention to proportions of ingredients. “People often cook way too much grain and not enough added extras,” says James. “Think of the grains as the canvas and add a colorful variety of things to it.”
Here are a few more tips:
Make sure grains are not stale or rancid
Cooking times can vary from 10 minutes (buckwheat) to 60 minutes (rye berries).
Whole grains generally require longer cooking times than pearled (refined or processed) grains.
If you like grains with bite, keep testing so you don’t overcook them.
Toast grains for extra flavor: Place grains in a dry skillet; heat gently, stirring, until evenly toasted. Cook as usual.
Then combine grains in James’ five-step salad:
To cooked grains, add some fruit/vegetables (cucumber, scallions, radish, celery, peppers, tomato, corn, asparagus, apple, avocado, grapes, grated carrot, dried apricots, green beans, snow peas).
Throw in some crumbled feta, drained canned tuna, cold crispy bacon, leftover roasted meat or sausages, shrimp, goat cheese, white beans or chickpeas.
Sprinkle with some nuts and seeds (pumpkin, chia seeds, toasted almonds, pine nuts).
Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season well.
Here is a more in-depth guide to several gluten-free grains mentioned in both James’ and Shulenberger’s books:
Color: Sand-colored seeds.
Taste: Mild, nutty, slightly malty.
Texture: Some crunch, slight oatmeal-like consistency. Can get gluey, so mix with a drier grain such as oats.
Use: Boil whole for salads or sides. Or toast in a dry skillet.
Color: Cream to black.
Taste: Creamy; nutty if toasted.
Texture: Creamy when cooked longer.
Add: Cook whole for stews or salads. Add to breads or toast in a skillet.
Color: Usually white; also black or red.
Taste: Mild, slightly grassy flavor.
Texture: Slightly crunchy.
Use: In soups and stews. Works in salads. Add to fritters and burgers.