Sure, your doctor has been hollering for years to eat more whole grains. But we're not talking brown bread and sawdust pasta here. The recent explosion of nutty, chewy, fluffy, downright delicious seeds and grains available on grocery shelves and inspired menus means you can crave what you should eat. We love TownHall's Power 4.0 salad ($10), a jumble of kale, green apple, avocado, shaved cheese, dragon fruit and a hearty granola made with almonds, flaxseed, cacao nibs, chia seeds, dried cranberries and whole-grain sorghum. "[Sorghum] is an ancient grain, been around thousands and thousands of years," says chef Erik Roth. "But it kind of flew out of the window. You had quinoa and all these other grains that people were big on." The peppercorn-sized grain is making a comeback thanks to the attention it's gotten from non-genetically modified organisms and gluten-free dieters, who like it for its low-glycemic properties and versatility. "It's not like risotto or rice — it's kind of got a nice bite to it and a unique flavor once you toast it up." 1909 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-344-9400, townhallohiocity.com
It doesn't take much more than a wooden spoon and a saucepot to cook whole grains for soups, salads and sides. But to turn your favorites into baking flours, pick up a Vitamix dry grains container ($144) to add to your C-Series or G-Series Vitamix blender. "It actually has a blade that's specially engineered to grind flour," says store manager Michelle Luciano. "The hammer-mill edge is like hitting [grains] with a baseball bat. It just pounds everything in there." Vitamix Store and Culinary Exploration Center, 6134 Kruse Drive, Solon, 440-782-2002, vitamix.com
seeds of knowledge
While most home cooks feel pretty comfortable whipping up a side of rice or a bowl of oatmeal, people panic when a few unfamiliar grains are thrown in. But you can turn out consistently good grains if you keep a few basics in mind. Start by rinsing your grains. "Just give them a quick once-over," says Justin Gorski, chef and owner of Cleveland Vegan, which features more than a handful of grains on the menu. He also emphasizes the need to watch the pot. "Sometimes people are like, Put the lid on and just leave it for 10 minutes," he laughs. "It's not set it and forget it, you don't want to overcook this stuff." Finally, the job is not over once it's cooked. "You want it all to cool evenly," he says. "When you taste it and it tastes done, pull it out and put it on a sheet tray to cool at an even temperature."
If you love quinoa,try one of these.
| Teff | This bran-and-germ-dense grain might just replace your oatmeal. Toast 1 cup dry until it crackles, then add 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Boil, covered, 15 minutes, then remove lid and stir until thick. Top with walnuts, bananas and a drizzle of maple syrup.
| Amaranth | Technically a seed, amaranth is one of the few grains considered to be a complete protein, which makes it a great choice for vegetarians. Try it popped: Toast a tablespoon in a hot, dry skillet with a lid. Continually shake until the seeds pop like tiny popcorn kernels.
| Sorghum | To duplicate the grains in the Power 4.0 salad, saute 1 cup in oil along with diced onions, carrots and celery. When the vegetables are soft, add 3 cups vegetable stock. Simmer 45 to 90 minutes, checking periodically for al dente texture.
| Buckwheat | This gluten-free grain is popular ground into flour and used to make pancakes. Forgo the syrup and try delicate and savory buckwheat cakes topped with smoked salmon, sour cream and chives.