Shortly after becoming vegetarian, I made the switch to embrace whole grains such as farro, spelt, and oat berries. I was first introduced to Maria Speck through 2011’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, which quickly became a staple in my kitchen with dishes like barley salad with figs and tarragon dressing, citrus oatmeal with apricots and golden raisins, Greek-style cornbread with feta and thyme, and warm oat berries with walnuts and gorgonzola, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned that Maria had written a second book revolving around these ancient grains.
Maria’s early memories of her Greek and German culinary heritage shaped her love affair with ancient grains. Her two-step philosophy and user’s guide (two ways to use the book – use the “Pick Your Grains” table, or just open to a random page and jump in), as well as clearly labeled gluten-free, vegetarian, and make-ahead recipes, makes “Simply Ancient Grains” very user-friendly even for novice cooks. A very useful guide to grains includes notes on flavor, texture, nutrition bonus and whether said grains are gluten-free, as well as a whole-grain flour baking guide. Each recipe also includes a helpful “fine points” section with guidance on making ahead, substitutions, and suggested brands.
Offerings are arranged by meal and include breakfast bowls, salads and sides, soups and stews, pasta, mains, and desserts. Standout recipes include farro salad with roasted eggplant, caramelized onion, and pine nuts, tangy farro with honey-roasted kumquats, feta and tomatoes, freekeh soup with spicy harissa shrimp and dates, mac and cheese with Greek yogurt and leeks, and a candied squash torte with chocolate and hazelnut praline. The mac and cheese has become my new favorite; a combination of whole-grain pasta and several cheeses (including Gouda, parmesan and mozzarella) married with herbs (orange peel, sage, thyme), creamy leeks and topped with panko, this transforms mac and cheese into a jubilant Mediterranean dish.
The wealth of offerings and range of international influences make this a very versatile book that will certainly see much use in the kitchen; it’s a fantastic starting point if you are new to cooking and baking with whole grains, and even experienced cooks will find many tantalizing recipes, tips, and tricks within.
(This book was provided free of charge from the Blogging for Books program)