Move Over, Wheat: Ancient Grains are Set to Make a Comeback in 2014

By Carlynn Woolsey, Foodable Contributor

Move over, rice, oats, and wheat! A new crop of grains is about to go mainstream — and in fact, there is nothing ‘new’ about them. Ancient grains including amaranth, farro, and freekeh (to name a few), are expected to be major players on restaurant menus in 2014. With a nationwide trend toward healthier living taking place, and the gluten-free trend showing no signs of slowing down, these grains pack the nutritious punch consumers are looking for and transition easily in place of traditional starchy dishes. Keep on reading to familiarize yourself with the variations chefs will be reaching for most in the coming months!

Amaranth 

Amaranth is the only grain documented to contain Vitamin C, is high in iron, magnesium and potassium, is a source of complete protein, and boasts cholesterol-lowering properties. In South American countries, this health-inducing powerhouse is served popped, as a street-side snack. Stateside, we are more likely to see amaranth used to impart nutty flavor to breads, muffins, and pancakes.  

Farro

Farro has a storied history, particularly in Italy, where it is said to have been popular amongst the Roman legions and their leaders. The grain is still used widely in Italian cooking today, and has recently arrived on our shores, disguising itself as rice in risotto, and sprinkled into salads.     

Freekeh

Freekeh is wheat that has been harvested while still young and green, and then roasted. Compared to other ancient greens, freekeh has the quickest cooking time — about 20 minutes — making it especially popular with the restaurant set. It takes on a chewy texture and can be used in recipes that normally call for barley or brown rice.   

Spelt

With the organic farming movement making tremendous strides, spelt berries have emerged as a popular crop, given that they require very few fertilizers to grow. Cooked in whole form, the berries have a slightly sweet flavor. When ground, spelt flour has a mild taste and a light texture, so it easily replaces other wheat flours.     

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Quinoa

Quinoa is technically a seed, but it’s sometimes referred to as the “mother grain,” given that it’s been cultivated for the last 5,000 years. In the last few years especially, quinoa has reigned as the gluten-free alternative to pasta and rice, replete with superfood qualities. We can expect to see it served cold, mixed with vegetables as a salad, and warm as a fluffy bed for any number of meat and fish dishes.  

If you have yet to cook quinoa at home, or just want a simple recipe that can be used interchangeably with any of the grains above, try the dish below!

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Creamy Citrus & Herb Quinoa (Serves 2)

Ingredients

1 Cup Heavy Cream

(Optional) 2 Tablespoons Orange Liqueur (Such as Grand Marnier) 

1 Orange, Zested

1 Lemon, Zested

2 Sprigs Fresh Mint, Chopped

6-8 Fresh Basil Leaves, Chopped

2 Cups Cooked Quinoa

½ Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Salt & Pepper to Taste

Directions

  1. In a large pan set over medium-low heat, warm the cream.
  2. Add the orange liqueur, orange zest, and lemon zest to the pan.
  3. Continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure that the cream does not form a ‘skin’ on top.
  4. Add the quinoa, cheese, salt & pepper to the pan, mixing to combine.
  5. Cook just until heated through.