The media is awash in the benefits of “whole grains” these days. So much that the big food companies have jumped on board touting “whole grains” in everything from cookies to crackers to Cheerios. While my guess is that those products might be slightly better for you than their more processed counterparts, I can’t help but feel this is a bit akin to greenwashing.
This is why I find myself trying to cook with whole grains in their original form more and more. The benefits are clear; whole grains are good for the body. They fill you up with soluble and non-soluble fiber which encourages you to eat less and aids in digestion. They are a heart-healthy food, scouring the body of cholesterol and can help cut the risk of diabetes. In addition, not only do they taste good, but they are easy on the wallet, especially when bought in bulk.
I like it when a cookbook not only inspires me to cook from its recipes but also teaches me about the food or culture. The book explains about cooking with different whole grains; some more well known (barley, wheat, quinoa), and some lesser-known ( teff, millet, and job’s tears). There are rice, corn and oat recipes as well. Oddly, I never thought of fresh corn kernels as a “whole grain” but that’s exactly what they are. From this book, I learned that one of my favorites, pearl barley, is not technically a “whole grain” because the bran (one layer of protection of the grain) has been partially removed in processing. That doesn’t make it bad or unhealthy, just not “whole” (the book recommends searching out hull-less barley).
Besides information on the specific grains (flavor, texture, history, best cooking method) Grain Mains has some other helpful features. Many of the recipes include “Tester’s Notes” which are tips, flavor profiles and advice from the people who tested the recipes. The “Chef It Up!” are tips from Bruce on how to take the dish in a different direction or modify it for a more special meal. There are also notes on how to “Make It Easier” and save some time in the cooking process. I especially appreciated all of those tidbits because those are the types of options I like to include in my own recipes. Bruce is the chef of the duo and Mark is the “voice”. Both do an excellent job; Bruce’s recipes are concise and I really appreciated Mark’s detailed, but easy to understand explanations.
Since doing a 21 day vegan diet a couple of years ago, I’ve been a fan of the veggie burger (my personal favorite brand is Dr. Praeger’s). I like a veg burger that isn’t pretending to be fake meat, so of course, I found myself drawn to the recipe for a Black Quinoa and Black Bean Burger. This burger was so good. It was hearty and filling, and a bit spicy, with a smoky flavor. The flavor almost reminded me of a Sloppy Joe without the sloppy. I was impressed with how well the texture of the burger held up to eating it on a bun; it didn’t fall apart or smush out the other side.
In addition to the burger, I also made the Sicilian Inspired Wheat Berry and Tuna Salad which was a satisfying and tasty meal (and may appear in a later post). In the future I’m looking forward to trying their Posole Verde, Spanish-Inspired Wild Rice, Spicy Brown Rice Salad with Chicken and Peanuts, and about a dozen other recipes.
Cook the quinoa-Fill a medium sized sauce pot halfway with water and add the quinoa. bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and the grain has expanded. Drain in a fine mesh sieve. Allow to cool about 10 minutes. Click here to see more on cooking quinoa.
Pour the quinoa into a food processor. Add in the rinsed black beans, the rolled oats and all the other ingredients (see specific ingredient notes above) except the oil. Pulse the food processor until all the ingredients start to blend together. Stop a few times and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The recipe describes the end result as a “pastelike batter”, though I found it to be thicker and drier than I expected.
The blended mix yields about 24 ounces. Using damp hands, form 6 equal sized patties out of the mix, about half an inch thick. These come out about the size of a traditional burger and fit nicely on a standard bun.
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add half the oil (see note about oil above). Use a spatula to add the burgers to the oil and cook until deeply browned (about 4 min). Use the spatula to flip the burger and if you want cheese, add it now and cover the pan with a lid to melt the cheese as the other side of the burger cooks. Repeat if cooking all the burgers at one time.
I had to make a couple of adjustments to the recipe because I didn't have all of the specific ingredients but that's the beauty of cooking; most recipes can be cooked exactly as written or adapted as needed.Quinoa- The recipe called for black quinoa and I used red. I assume you could use the more common white quinoa, though the final burger might look a little different.Pepperoncinis- The recipe called for pickled jalepeno rings which I could not find, so I substituted the pepperoncinis which are a little more mild in flavor.Worcestershire sauce- Most people aren't aware but Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies. If vegan, substitute a vegan Worcestershire.Chili Powder- One of the book's "Tester's Notes" mentions that standard chili powder is actually a blend of ground dried chiles, cumin and oregano and "pure" chili powder is made from a single dried chili. I happened to have Chipotle powder so I used that, but be aware, it's much spicier than regular chili powder. The original recipe calls for 2 Tablespoons and I've cut the amount in half.Oil- The recipe recommends using a nut oil such as walnut or hazelnut. My local store did not have any. The first time I cooked one of the burgers I used olive oil and it burned quickly on the outside so my guess is that nut oil is recommended because it has a higher burn temperature. I used canola oil after that and kept the heat at a low medium and that worked much better.