TIME: 10 minutes to more than 1 hour, depending on the
This process will allow you to cook almost any grain perfectly every time. (The most notable exceptions are bulgur, white or whole wheat couscous, and wild rice, which all have their own basic recipes in this chapter.) You really don’t even have to measure anything. I’m providing a recipe for the method, but you don’t need it: Put the grains in a pot with water and cook them until they’re done the way you like them. Period.
1 cup white or brown rice, pearl couscous, quinoa,
barley (any type), oat groats, buckwheat groats,
cracked wheat, hominy, whole rye, farro, or kamut or
11/2 cups wheat berries
Extra virgin olive oil, other oil, or butter
1- Combine the grain with a large pinch of salt and water to cover by about an inch in a small to medium
saucepan. (Use 3 cups water for pearled barley, which predictably absorbs a more precise amount of water.) Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently.
2- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the grain is tender. This will take as little as 7 or 8 minutes with pearl
couscous (for “regular” or whole wheat couscous, see page 477) and as long as 1 hour or more for some brown rice, unpearled or hulled barley, wheat berries, and other unhulled grains. Hominy can take 2 hours or longer. Add boiling water as necessary to keep the grains covered, but—especially as the grain swells and begins to get tender—keep just enough water in the pot to keep the grain from drying out.
3- The grain is done when it tastes done; whole grains will always have some bite to them, but milled or cut
grains will become mushy if overcooked, so be careful. Ideally, you’ll have cooked out all of the water at about the same time the grain is tender, but if any water remains, strain the grain.
4- Toss the grain with olive or other oil or butter to taste if you’re serving right away or see “7 Ways to
Enhance Cooked Grains” (page 452). If you’re storing it, toss it with a couple of tablespoons of olive or other oil to keep the grains from sticking together too much, then cover and refrigerate or freeze
7 Ways to Enhance Cooked Grains
In Step 4, use a large fork to toss any of the following ingredients in with the grains and butter or oil:
1. Just-tender cooked vegetables, like peas, chopped greens, broccoli or cauliflower florets, or chopped
2. A couple spoonfuls of a simple sauce, like any Flavored Oil (page 26) or Compound Butter (page 32)
or Vinaigrette (page 199); Traditional Pesto (page 27); Five-Minute Drizzle Sauce (page 22); any Chile Paste (page 74); or Simple Miso Dipping Sauce (page 39)
3. 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely grated or crumbled cheese, like Parmesan, feta, any blue cheese, or goat cheese
4. 2 or 3 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, like chives, parsley, rosemary, or mint
5. 1 to 2 cups any cooked beans
6. 1/2 to 1 cup of dried fruit, like raisins, cranberries, cherries, or chopped dates or apricots, with or without chopped nuts or seeds
7. Cooked chopped sausage, bacon, ham, or any cooked meat or fish
Making Grains Sophisticated
You can refine Cooking Grains, the Easy Way in different ways. You can toast or sauté the grain first, cooking it in a dry pan or with some fat just till aromatic, which will enhance its flavor, or you can also add spices, herbs, or bits of just about any food you can think of. Perhaps the easiest way to make grains more flavorful and nutritious is to use liquid other than water: stock, juice, wine, any dairy or nondairy milk, or a combination. And when the grain is tender, you may serve it immediately or set it aside for later; you can serve it plain, cook further in some new way, or toss it with other ingredients.