One of the memories I have from eating as a child is the times we had rice for dinner. My mother never cooked the boil-in-a-bag stuff, but she did make those little rice boxes with the flavor packets and, every once in a while, one of her sweet, yet occasionally-obstinate children would distract her and the flavor packet would get left out. The woe!
I think of this often now whenever I’m making grains — oats, polenta, rice, wheat berries — at home. While each of these grains has unique flavors and valuable nutrition, they’re really nothing without a bit of layered flavor to complement them, from cooking to serving.
Here are a few recipes to get you thinking beyond water and dreaming of creative ways to weave flavorful grains into your regularly scheduled cooking program.
GREEN TEA RICE
This is a savory and interesting way to serve rice for grain bowls any time of day. Combine fresh vegetables, greens and a splash of soy sauce and rice vinegar and you have a satisfying, grounding meal. Top with eggs prepared in your favorite way for breakfast or with grilled meat or shrimp for lunch or dinner.
- 1 tablespoon loose green tea
- 2 1/4 cups (237ml) water
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups (270g) sushi rice
- Poached eggs, rotisserie chicken, grilled shrimp
- Grilled broccoli, sautéed bok choy, chopped carrots
- Steamed sweet potato
- Sesame seeds, furikake seasoning, toasted nori
Bring 2 1/4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add tea; cover, and let steep 5 minutes. Strain; discard tea leaves and reserve brewed tea.
It’s not recommended to use a high-grade matcha powder stirred directly into the cooking liquid here; the boiling water required to cook the rice destroys its flavors. Instead, use loose tea or tea bags to infuse the cooking water first, then boil and cook.
Return brewed tea to the saucepan or place in the bowl of a rice cooker; add salt. If using the stovetop to cook your rice, bring the tea to a boil over medium-high heat. Add rice; cover, and reduce heat to low. In the rice cooker, select the sushi setting and begin cooking. Cook until tea has been absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve immediately.
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 143; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g;; Cholesterol: 0g; Sodium: 408mg; Carbohydrate: 32g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 3g; Protein: 2g
SAVORY OATS IN BONE BROTH WITH SPINACH
Your breakfast never had it so good as a steaming bowl of umami, salty, savory oatmeal to start your day. Bone broth is similar to broth in that both are made with the same process of cooking meat and bones for a long period of time to build flavor, but bone broth is cooked even longer with bones almost exclusively to draw out the nutrients present in the collagen that seeps from the bones and joints during cooking. When topped with eggs, greens, fresh herbs and avocado — or any other accoutrements that make your heart soar — this is a quick-and-easy meal that blows minds.
- 2 cups (475ml) bone broth
- 1 cup (90g) old-fashioned rolled oats
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup (30g) baby spinach or arugula
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 fried eggs
- 1 medium avocado, thinly sliced
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Chopped carrots, sliced radishes, fresh herbs (optional)
In a saucepan, bring the bone broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the oats, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the oats are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, 10–12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the spinach until just wilted. Stir in half of the green onion.
Divide the oatmeal among 2 bowls. Top each with a fried egg, garnish with remaining green onion and avocado, any other vegetables you like and drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1/2 cup each
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 246; Total Fat: 14g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Monounsaturated Fat: 8g; Cholesterol: 92g; Sodium: 368mg; Carbohydrate: 19g; Dietary Fiber: 6g; Sugar: 2g; Protein 10g
CREAMY MORNING MAPLE POLENTA
Polenta isn’t just for hearty Italian dinners; polenta is a perfect, warming alternative to hot cereal or oatmeal and, when served creamy and sweet, topped with fresh seasonal fruits — it’s a real showstopper.
- 1 cup (120g) yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup (237g) water
- 3 cups (720g) whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 1 ripe peach, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup (30g) toasted pecans, chopped
- Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
Whisk cornmeal and water in a medium bowl to blend. Bring milk and salt to simmer in heavy-bottomed large saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually add cornmeal mixture, whisking constantly until polenta comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until polenta is very thick, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Mix in maple syrup and butter. Season to taste with pepper and transfer to bowl. Top with peaches, sprinkle with pecans and serve with a dusting of cinnamon.
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1/2 cup each
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 359; Total Fat: 13g; Saturated Fat: 8g; Monounsaturated Fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 38g; Sodium: 457mg; Carbohydrate: 52g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 27g; Protein 9g