Review: Ancient Grains
The grains you see at your average grocery store are just the tip of the silo. Have you ever had freekeh, or amaranth, teff? If not—or if you’re unsure of what to do with exotic-sounding grains like these—Maria Speck is here to show you the way.
Speck, who grew up with a German father and Greek mother, presents a collection of inventive, healthy, simple recipes that incorporate grain in fundamental and unexpected ways, drawing from the cuisine of her heritage.
This is Speck’s second grain-centric cookbook, but you won’t miss out if you haven’t read her first, 2011’s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. She presents a two-step method for cooking grain that allows you to prep long-cooking items like farro up to a day before, so you can enjoy a healthy meal with minimal cooking time.
Speck writes that she used to try to convert people to whole grains by emphasizing the health angle, but realized she could change more minds with delicious recipes that just happen to be good for you. She embraces this philosophy in Simply Ancient Grains with well-thought out, varied recipes that go way beyond simple salads or sides.
You’ll find interesting, creative breakfasts like polentina with strawberries, poppy seeds and lime, mouthwatering Mediterranean fare like baked feta fingers in saffron quinoa with tomatoes, elegant salads like teff polenta verde with dandelions and parmesan, and dessert options that run the kamut (too corny?) from barley thumbprints with honey and hazelnuts to amaranth pudding with amaretto cream. Nearly all of these recipes are healthy choices.
Speck also points out that eating gluten-free doesn’t mean swearing off all grain, and she breaks down which grains have gluten and which don’t in the beginning of the book, which is helpful.
The hardest thing about these recipes will probably be finding the incredibly varied grain options outlined in the book—unless you’re near a Whole Foods or other health food store, you may have a hard time finding black rice or teff. Regardless, this is a great book that will change the way you approach grains in your own cooking—and possibly improve your diet in the process.
Want a taste? Try Breakfast Polentina With Strawberries, Poppy Seeds, And Lime.
Simply Ancient Grains
by Maria Speck
272 pages. Ten Speed Press, April 2014