I’m writing this column as I am in the tail end of training for my annual foray into one of our fun local 5k runs.
This time it’s the Cardiff Kook, and being a sprinter and a fairly regular plate licker, preparation for this is serious business.
It also gets me thinking about my diet, and how I can satisfy the immense hunger that arises as a result of these training runs in a manner that quells my hunger, tastes great and is nutritionally sound.
The first thing that comes to my mind traditionally in these scenarios is a pizza from Blue Ribbon, but I’ll leave that for after the race. I was turned on, like everyone else, to quinoa and farrow a couple of years ago, yet was looking for something a little different so I did some research and sure enough, there are a plethora of grains out there that have been around forever and are gaining in popularity.
With the somewhat obnoxious craze over gluten-free foods, it stands to reason that a gluten-free grain would come into play. Enter teff, an Ethiopian grain with a mildly nutty flavor.
Although it’s one of the smaller grains, it packs a big nutritional punch. Teff is high in protein, calcium and iron, and did I mention it’s gluten-free?
Regardless of where you fall on the gluten-free hype, the fact that teff contains no gluten will surely help its cause. Farmers in Ethiopia grow the stuff en mass and while the grain is typically ground into flour to make injera spongy, pancake-like bread, it could also be used on its own as a substitute for wheat flour.
Another grain that is poised for the limelight is freekeh, a grain that is harvested when it is still young and green.
The seeds are piled up into stacks and dried in the sun, before being roasted. It tastes similar to barley, but has a smokier flavor thanks to the roasting process. Freekeh is said to be easier to digest than other grains and can be found in Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, which means it’s already gaining mainstream appeal. Another bonus is that it cooks much faster than other grains.
A type of Khorasan wheat, kamut, is a grain native to Egypt that has recently been rediscovered. It is very high in zinc, magnesium, iron and protein, with up to 40 percent more protein than regular wheat.
It’s also a good source of fatty acids. Kamut berries are slightly chewy and nutty, which means they stay intact in hot soups and also make really nice cold salads. Sounds like pretty much the perfect food to me.
Lupins, also called lupini beans, are legume seeds that have been eaten for thousands of years around the Mediterranean and today much of it is grown in Australia.
The seeds need to be soaked before they are cooked which can add some time to the process. Lupin is often ground into flour and used as an additive to wheat flour, however it can be used as a gluten-free substitute for wheat. An apparently necessary trait of super grains, it is also high in protein, fiber and could help with appetite control — something I could certainly use.
Farrow is not new to the super grain scene as chefs rediscovered it a couple years ago. One of my favorite local restaurants that have incorporated it nicely into their menu is Solace & The Moonlight Lounge.
It is more widely available than the more obscure grains mentioned above. Compared to quinoa, it’s a little softer and tenderer in texture; it’s similar to rice, so people who can’t deal with the slightly nutty flavor and poppy texture of quinoa will love spooning into a bowl of farro.
All of these super grains are very versatile and can be combined easily with your favorite grain. One of my favorite combinations is to simply sauté boneless skinless chicken thighs, broccoli, onions, garlic and canned artichoke hearts with the artichoke brine and serve over your favorite super grain seasoned to your liking. I’ve been experimenting with a different super grain weekly and it’s a fun and healthy process.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at email@example.com or (858) 395-6905.