Cooking with Gluten-free Whole Grains

Wheat and other gluten containing grains are pervasive in the standard American diet. There are in fact many whole grains that are naturally gluten-free, including the more familiar rice and corn, and the less familiar, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, tef and amaranth. This article reviews the less familiar millet, buckwheat, quinoa and tef.

Whole grains are important because they contain all of the nutrients in the grain: fiber, vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients. Whereas refined grains are nutritionally less superior. Nutrients are lost during the refining process because core edible parts of the grain are removed. For example, the germ and bran of a whole wheat kernel are removed in the process of making white flour. The whole grains listed below can be purchased in most natural food stores and in traditional supermarkets.

- Genevieve Sherrow, Candidate, Master's of Science in Nutrition and Samer Koutoubi MD, PhD, professor and core faculty, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University

Millet: Small, yellow, unfortunately found in bird seed mixtures and animal feed in the US, millet is an underutilized, versatile whole grain. Its alkaline nature makes it easy to digest. High in protein, potassium and magnesium, millet can be cooked up as a breakfast porridge, served in salads, soups and stuffings. The flour is a good choice for pancakes, cookies and other baked goods.

Nutty Millet Porridge

½ cup millet, dry
2 ½ cups water
Pinch of sea salt
½ teaspoon white or black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/8 cup of dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, or currants)

Heat a dry pot to medium. Add millet. Stir grain with a wooden spoon. After a few minutes the grains will begin to pop and give off a nutty aroma. Add water and salt. Bring to a boil. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Millet will soften like a porridge. Stir in sesame and sunflower seeds. Add butter and maple syrup. Taste and adjust salt or syrup. Ladle into your favorite breakfast bowl. Top with dried fruit of your choice.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Makes 1-2 servings

Copyright 2009, Genevieve Sherrow, Original Recipe.

Buckwheat: A misnomer, buckwheat is not part of the wheat family; it is a seed of a weedlike plant related to rhubarb, not a grain. Buckwheat originated in North Central Asia. It can be purchased in different forms, as "groats", roasted (kasha) or unroasted, as flour, and in noodles. Cook up buckwheat as a breakfast gruel, grain pilaf or stuffing. Use the flour in substantial breakfast pancakes and in savory crepes.

Peasant Kasha, Potatoes and Mushrooms

1 tablespoon butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups boiling water
1 small red potatoes, ¼" dice
3-4 mushrooms, sliced
1 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat)
Freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a 2-quart pot. Add onions, garlic and salt; sauté until the onion is soft. Put water on to boil in a separate pot or tea kettle. Add potatoes and mushrooms to onions; cook 2-3 minutes more, covered, until nice and juicy. Add kasha to mixture and stir, coating kasha. Pour in boiling water. Turn heat to low. Cover pot and simmer 15 minutes on low until all water is absorbed. Remove lid and allow kasha to rest for a few minutes. Fluff up and serve garnished with pepper. Add more salt if needed.

Preparation time: 25-30 minutes
Makes 6 servings

Reprinted with permission from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008) Video version from Cookus Interruptus.

Quinoa: Pronounced keen-wah, it was first cultivated in South America, 8,000 years ago. The Incas recognized its value in increasing stamina in their warriors. Quinoa is one of the most nutritious whole grains. It contains all of the amino acids, as well as B vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin E. It has a nutty and sometimes bitter flavor due to the fact that it's coated with saponin, a naturally occurring bitter substance, which should be washed off before cooking. Quinoa is a versatile grain. Serve as a morning porridge, a side dish mixed with beans, nuts and seeds, mix with greens, roasted vegetables, or serve with fish or chicken. The flour is wonderful in cookies.

Quinoa Biryani

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tablespoons high quality unrefined olive oil
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/2 cups sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup raw almonds, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
3 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coriander
Sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste

Combine water and quinoa in covered pot. After water comes to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and cool. Do not stir or agitate quinoa during cooking. Tilt pot to 45 degree angle to see if water has been absorbed.

Heat saucepan to medium-high, then add olive oil. Sauté ginger until it sizzles. Add onion and stir until it's translucent. Add garlic and stir. Combine quinoa, raisins, almonds, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander and honey (in that order) with garlic and onion. Stir until ingredients are well-coated.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Makes 3-4 servings

Copyright 2009, Genevieve Sherrow, Original Recipe.

Tef: Native to Ethiopian cultures, these miniscule brown grains are nutritionally superior to other grains, high in minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. If you've dined in Ethiopian restaurants, you've had Tef. Ingera, the flat bread served with food, is made from Tef flour and fermented with a sourdough starter.

Cream of Tef with Dates and Honey

¼ cup tef flour 2 cups water Pinch sea salt
½ cup medjool dates, chopped
1 tablespoon honey Milk of choice

Toast Tef in dry saucepan over medium heat until it emits a fragrant aroma, about 2-3 minutes. Add water and salt and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in dates and honey. Serve hot with milk of choice.

Preparation time: 10 minutes Makes 2 servings

Recipe adapted by Genevieve Sherrow with inspiration from Rebecca Wood's The Splendid Grain.