Ancient grains are all the rage in the culinary world right now, gracing the pages of culinary tastemakers like Bon Appetit in recent months. If you want to get in on the food trend, Maine grows a diverse selection of grains that are fun and delicious to utilize in home cooking.
But how do you get started with ancient grains, those scrumptious wheats, emmer and other seeds that, unlike modern wheat, have gone unchanged for generations?
The Maine-grown grain revolution has been rising in Skowhegan for years now, as companies like Maine Grains get into the business of growing, harvesting and selling delicious specialty oats, barley and the like. Beyond just mixing it up in the kitchen and supporting local growers, though, these grains are often more wholesome and healthier than their conventional counterparts.
You can easily swap whole grains into many recipes and baked goods with some adjustments in measurements, but sometimes it is more fun to choose a recipe where the grains are meant to shine. Here are 9 recipes featuring Maine grains that you can try today to start adding them into your culinary routine.
Sprouted wheat quick-bread
Here’s a straightforward, flavorful recipe using sprouted flour or spelt — an ancient grain closely related to wheat that is known for its added health benefits — in a quick bread or muffins. If you are turning to ancient grains for a gluten-free alternative, this gluten-rich bread will not be for you, but is delicious nonetheless. Give this sprouted wheat quick-bread a try if you are looking to mix up your loaf routine.
Warm chipotle maple roasted sweet potato salad with farro and kale
Popular in ancient Rome and now grown in Maine, farro is rich in fiber, protein and iron. When cooked, it’s soft with a slightly sweet nuttiness. This salad starts with this healthy grain and is topped with a good-for-you green with spicy-sweet warm sweet potatoes, along with a refreshing citrus dressing. You’re sure to want to prepare this warm chipotle maple roasted sweet potato salad with farro and kale again and again.
Creamy barley pudding with raisins and nuts
Barley can be cooked and used much in the same way as rice. If you enjoy rice pudding, this scrumptious barley pudding with raisins and nuts is a creamy, sweet-and-savory and local alternative. Try preparing this creamy barley pudding
Traditional risotto is an Italian rice dish made by slowly cooking the rice with small additions of wine and warm stock until it plumps and becomes a creamy, dreamy dish. But risotto can be made with grains other than rice as well. In fact, barley and farro both can make delicious risotto-like dishes by applying the same method of cooking used in traditional risottos to the non-traditional grains. Try this recipe for barley risotto with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms and roasted red peppers for a twist on the Italian classic.
Making a pilaf with barley is a great base with seemingly infinite variations. You can jazz it up with different vegetables, herbs, nuts and meat, as well as other grains like wheat berries. This recipe for barley pilaf will provide a solid base for a number of delicious meals.
Roasted broccoli grain bowl with shallot vinaigrette
This is a fresh, boldly flavored dish that’s satisfying but still pretty simple. Minced shallots, olive oil, white wine vinegar, honey and a hint of mustard come together in a tangy, rich dressing for roasted vegetables and any grain you want to try, like barley or farro. Use this recipe for roasted broccoli grain bowl with shallot vinaigrette to try any kinds of Maine grains you may want to sample.
Warm farro barley savory salad
Grains like barley, farro, wheat or even rye are boiled until tender but still chewy. Accompanied by a little dried fruit, onion, cheese, nuts, bacon and snappy dressing, any of these grains makes a good warm or room temperature salad. Serve it alongside a roast or atop lettuce as a stand alone dish. Check out this recipe for warm farro barley savory salad to get started.
Polenta with gorgonzola
Made from cornmeal, polenta was once eaten by people looking for a hearty, cheap meal but has recently gained popularity in culinary circles. This dish takes advantage of the unbeatable way polenta pairs with the highly flavored cheese. This recipe for polenta with gorgonzola is simple, but tastes like it comes from a trendy restaurant.
Maine-made rolled oats are perfect for this simple dessert. As an added bonus, it is flourless, so it is also great for anyone avoiding gluten. Try this delicious applesauce dessert for breakfast, or for dessert with a scoop of ice cream.
Cooking with Maine-grown grains makes cooking more fun, can be good for your health and supports a growing sector of the agricultural economy in the state.