Cookbook of the Week: Grain Mains Is Not Your Average Whole-Grain Dinner | Squid Ink | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Cookbook of the Week: Grain Mains Is Not Your Average Whole-Grain Dinner

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Mon, Aug 6, 2012 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge RODALE BOOKS
  • Rodale Books
Prolific cookbook authors Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough have been on a carnivorous Goat and Ham recipe testing kick in recent years, so perhaps they were having a subconscious Morgan Spurlock post-Super Size Me cleansing moment with their latest cookbook, Grain Mains. Or maybe they were simply craving a few more oat groat and black-eyed pea salads (p. 108). Either way, the cookbook, to be released later this month, is a catalog of whole-grain main dish inspiration -- and not just with the recipes.

In today's perky, polka dot-covered, food blog writing era, Weinstein and Scarbrough are forthright with their picadillo opinions ("OK, we'll admit it: This [vegetable version] is a long way from a true picadillo of ground beef, spices and veggies") and even a bit whole-grain sarcastic. Their "one quibble" with whole grains: The word "whole" is a misnomer, as even the most unrefined grains we buy are refined to an extent, and thus, not whole.

All the more reason we love this cookbook.

The following excerpt from the Introduction neatly sums up Scarbrough's style (he serves as the scribe for the books; Weinstein is the recipe developer).

We'll also admit that some whole grains are rather esoteric, more aspirational than inspirational. Triticale berries, anyone? But a cook's reach should exceed his grasp. Or hers. With apologies to Robert Browning. But what else keeps us from eating whole grains? We suspect they're too often shellacked with all those nutritional (and digestive) claims. Sure, it's hard to talk about whole grains without bringing up the power pack of vitamins and fiber that they are.

But let's. In fact, let's never mention your colon again. From here on out, let's think about whole grains from a culinary standpoint, not a nutritional one. Let's assume their pharmacopeia status -- and move on.

We couldn't agree more. It's a quinoa salad mantra that echoes what Maria Speck, author of what is still our favorite whole-grain cookbook in recent years, first drove home in Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.

click to enlarge Whole-grain recipe testing fun: Barley + Black Eyed-Pea Salad With Dates + Almonds - BRUCEANDMARK.COM
More than half the recipes in Grain Mains are vegetarian or vegan, as noted on the top of each page for handy flip-through reference. Vegetarian dishes include kamut burgers with shallots and pecans, Turkish red lentil and bulgur soup, creamy farro and potato salad and a vegetable pot pie made with millet grits and amaranth. On the vegan front, barley salad with chickpeas, dates and almonds (get their initial black-eyed pea recipe-testing version in the photo link above), Medjool dates and toasted almonds, quinoa with asparagus and shiitakes and sorghum soup with chiles and sweet potatoes sound interesting enough to satisfy carnivores.

Not surprisingly, many of the recipes that are not vegetarian or vegan offer up meat in measured doses, like a rye berry and goat cheese salad that has Worcestershire sauce in the dressing (the sauce has anchovies) and a wheat berry salad with capers and tuna. The book press release also promises that these recipes "won't leave anyone missing the meat."

The publisher may be more focused on that Job's tears and edamame salad with carrot dressing, but we can't stop flipping back to those meaty chunks of pork shoulder swimming in posole verde (151), beef chili with kamut (142), or the smoked ham and corn pudding (169). They are some of the cookbook's most enticing recipes, more so when you remember this is a couple that buys whole hogs for cookbook -- and Ham dinner -- research purposes. Just our kind of wild rice, chicken and chorizo casserole (p. 174) "healthy" whole-grain cooks.


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