In this season of over-indulgence, it’s sometimes hard to eat right so today I am delighted to draw your attention to Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck. Selected by The New York Times as “a best summer cookbook” as well as one of “This Year’s Notable Cookbooks”, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals has received rave reviews across the US and is a perfect antidote to all the rich holiday foods we tend to consume in December. It’s also perfect for those New Year’s resolutions in January 😉
Speck’s first book showcases her passion for using Old World staples such as farro, barley, polenta, and wheat berries everyday dishes. Beautifully presented, in this inspired and highly personal book, Maria Speck draws on food traditions from across the Mediterranean and northern Europe to reveal how versatile, satisfying, flavorful, and sophisticated whole grains can be.
Gorgeous photography and easy to follow recipes for rustic but elegant dishes like Creamy Farro with Honey-Roasted Grapes, Barley Salad with Figs and Tarragon-Lemon Dressing, Lamb Stew with Wheat Berries in Red Wine Sauce, and Purple Rice Pudding with Rose Water Dates are sure to please discerning palates and become favorites in any whole grain repertoire.
You’ve surely heard a lot about how healthy whole grains are, right? And wondered how to incorporate more of them into your diet? Well this book will teach both food lovers and health-conscious home cooks how to integrate whole grains into busy lives, from quick-cooking quinoa and buckwheat to the slower varieties such as spelt and Kamut. Raised by a Greek mum and a “gluttonous food-loving father from Germany” Maria has a distinct philosophy about cooking and whole grains, which sets her apart from others who just eat whole grains because they are healthy. As she states in the book’s introduction, “I don’t eat whole grains because they are healthy, or wholesome, or to reap their nutritional benefits. To me, whole grains carry luxurious qualities: lively texture, vivid colours and rich flavours.” Maria eats them (and encourages other to) because they TASTE GREAT!
Maria’s own passion for good food stems from her upbringing in both Greece and Germany, where whole grains are still part of the culinary fabric to this day. No one ever told her to eat bulgur and wheat berries because they are “oh so good” for you – they were simply part of everyday eating. I was so happy to receive a copy of this book to check out because I can’t think of a better time of year to incorporate more whole grains into my diet than now. I had a really hard time choosing which recipe to make but finally settled on a simple, fresh quinoa dish. I was having friends over for a “blog meal” where they get to try upcoming dishes on my blog (it’s a frequent occurrence!) and the other dishes were a bit on the rich side, so I wanted something lighter. Lemon quinoa with currants, dill and zucchini sounded just the thing.
Lemon quinoa with currants, dill and zucchini
Maria says: "This tangy dish, studded with plump currants, is a mixture of soothing rice pilaf and a refreshing salad."
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped green onions (about 6)
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1 lemon
- 2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small)
- 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- To make the quinoa, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the green onions and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the dark green parts wilt but do not turn brown, about 2 minutes.
- Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally until the grains start to crackle and turn dry, about 3 minutes.
- Add the water, the currants and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt.
- Bring to a boil then decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, finely grate the zest of the lemon until you have 1 teaspoonful then squeeze the lemon until you have 2 tablespoons of juice.
- To finish, remove the pan from the heat, stir the zucchini, lemon juice and zest, 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons of the dill and the pepper into the quinoa. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
- Cover and let sit for 3 minutes.
- Transfer quinoa to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons each of sesame seeds and dill, and serve.
This was a delightful dish that I actually served cold as a salad, though it was lovely warm too (since, you know, I tasted it when it was just ready, for quality control, and I had to stop myself from taking a big spoon and eating the lot!). I substituted dried cranberries and golden raisins for the currants since that’s what I had on hand and added some crumbled feta as per Maria’s suggestion – I actually think it looks lovely and festive with those colours, for the holidays! A definite hit with my guests and one I’ll be adding to my repertoire for both cold and warm weather.
I’m so excited to be able to offer readers from the US or Canada (sorry, international friends…) a chance to win a copy of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals!
To enter: Simply leave me a comment, telling me your favourite way to incorporate whole grains into your meals.
For a bonus entry, tweet the following message:
I entered to win a copy of @MariaSpeck ‘s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals on @eatlivtravwrite! Enter here! http://bit.ly/sLILS3
then come back and eave a separate comment telling me you did!
Contest closes Saturday, December 17th at 6pm EST and the winner will be announced on Sunday, December 18th. Good luck!
Disclosure: The giveaway item (one copy of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals) was provided at no cost to me and will be shipped from the publisher. I received a copy of the book myself for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.
Recipe was reprinted with permission from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.