Food writer Maria Speck’s passion for propelling Old World staples such as farro, barley, polenta, and wheat berries to the forefront of new American cooking is beautifully presented in Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. 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.
Rustic but elegant dishes--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.
Food lovers and health-conscious home chefs alike learn how to integrate whole grains into their busy lives, from quick-cooking quinoa and buckwheat to the slower varieties such as spelt and Kamut. The stunning flavors and lively textures of whole grains are enhanced with natural ingredients such as butter, cream, and prosciutto--in moderation--to create lush Mediterranean-inspired recipes. Maria’s approachable style and generous spirit make this collection of time-honored, updated classics a treasury for today’s cooks.
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MARIA SPECK grew up in Greece and Germany before moving to the United States as a young adult. She is a writer and journalist, and has contributed to Gourmet, Saveur, and Gastronomica, as well as Marie Claire and Elle. Her popular cooking classes in Cambridge, Massachusetts, focus on the flavors and cooking styles of the Mediterranean and on creating innovative and delicious meals with whole grains.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Introduction: The Glamour of Whole Grains
Whole grains have cast a spell on me—from the first sweetened wheat berries I chewed on during my grandfather’s funeral to the comforting corn polenta my Greek mother makes to this day. I crave the tender chewiness of brown rice, the soft, translucent pearls of quinoa, and the warming lightness of millet. I love the subtle sweetness of whole oats, the slight sourness of rye, and the pleasing nuttiness of wheat berries. But 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 textures, vivid colors, and rich flavors.
My passion is rooted in my upbringing. I was raised by a Greek mom, a fervent home cook, and a gluttonous food-loving father from Germany. I spent parts of my childhood in Greece, where my grandmother and my aunt would rise at 4:oo A.M. on holidays to prepare food for the extended family, from elaborately stuffed grape leaves with currants and pine nuts to oven-roasted kid lamb and bulgur pilaf. And I spent my formative years in Germany, where whole grains are part of the culinary fabric to this day, most famously in the country’s rustic loaves of dark bread.
Our family table reflected these two contrasting cultures: my mom’s tomato omelet with feta cheese was served with huge slices of my dad’s favorite whole grain bread, cut from a traditional loaf almost the size of a bicycle tire. One week we indulged on German pork roast with homemade gravy, the next we spooned into tangy Greek stifadho, a wine-infused beef stew. My dad couldn’t imagine life without liverwurst; my mom suffered when she couldn’t find oranges or lemons.
This heritage is at the heart of this book. In it, I combine my mom’s Mediterranean cuisine—its simplicity, its mesmerizing aromas, and its use of fresh ingredients—with the centuries-old traditions of preparing whole grain foods in northern Europe. In a nutshell, this whole grain cookbook brings you the bounty of the Mediterranean in tandem with the vast universe of ancient whole grains. It will take you on a journey from Greece to Turkey, from the south of France to Italy, and to Lebanon, adding tempting and delicious meals to your table with innovative flavors and new textures, some tender and some toothsome.
The recipes in this book will show you how to transform these ancient staples into fresh modern meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert—while adding health benefits all along. Whole grains were, after all, the building blocks of our diet through the millennia. But do not expect me to lecture about them, or remind you to eat them regularly. I’d much rather have you try many of them and discover their remarkable textures and stunning variety—because eating is about pleasure first, and dieting last. I believe food has to be mouthwatering and seductive to stay in our meal plan for good. This is why I use rich natural ingredients like butter, cream and bacon, though in moderation. To me, whole grains are the ultimate comfort food. Chewy, sensual, and immensely satisfying, they are homey and nourishing in an old-fashioned way. And economical to boot.
In this book you will learn how to utilize quick-cooking grains like polenta, buckwheat, couscous, and millet as well as how to prepare “slower” whole grain berries in advance for a busy workweek. Whether you are a novice in the kitchen or an experienced home cook, you will find many short cuts and practical advice.
This book is not a whole grain bible, or the definitive guide to the grains of this planet. It is, rather, a personal selection of the whole grains I like to eat, inspired by the flavors and ingredients on which I was raised. And while most of these recipes draw from the rich food culture of the Mediterranean, they are typically not traditional dishes. Just like humans, traditions in food are always in flux. Today, in posh bakeries in Thessaloniki in northern Greece where my extended family lives, you find traditional olive oil cakes right next to, yes, American muffins. But these muffins are flavored with distinct local flavors and ingredients for their Greek customers, as are the anise-flavored muffins in this book, with dates and dried apricots and pistachios. Or indulge in saffron-scented waffles, topped with a creamy, rich yogurt topping with oranges—these are the flavors of my childhood, yet waffles, to my knowledge, have not yet arrived in the Mediterranean. Or have they?
Other recipes will transport you to the Mediterranean in an instant: enrich dinner with a wine-infused mussel stew with tomatoes and farro, an artichoke-rosemary tart with polenta crust, or an easy pasta with ground lamb and minted yogurt. Or feast on a stunning Moroccan-inspired salad with Kamut berries, carrots, cinnamon, and pomegranate seeds. For dessert, choose from an intensely fruity olive oil cake, bursting with figs plumped in orange-scented liqueur, or a purple rice pudding with rose water–infused dates.
While almost all of the recipes are Mediterranean-inspired, I couldn’t hide my German roots. They bring you a luxurious chocolate-hazelnut muesli with dark chocolate and a crusty aromatic loaf of whole grain bread, flavored with coriander and fennel. And let’s not forget an olive bread with bacon and thyme. Bacon, as an ingredient, has re-entered my cooking only in recent years. After all, my last name, Speck, means “bacon” in German. Having faced relentless teasing as a kid in school, I shunned this ancient ingredient for way too long—this bread brought it back, with a Mediterranean twist.
I believe the glamorous qualities of whole grains are vastly underrated. With this book, I would like to invite you to explore their star power. I hope you will learn more about matching and pairing their unique flavors and splendid textures, adding culinary highlights to your everyday life. Give these ancient staples a try—never have they been so ready for our modern tables.
Musings on Health, Dieting, and Good Eating
Almost every conversation about my passion for whole grains evokes this well-meaning remark: “Your diet must be very healthy.” This comment always leaves me speechless, because health is the last thing on my mind when I eat. Of course, we all want to eat and live in a healthy way. But the reality is that good intentions rarely last, even a day.
Today, I don’t try anymore. I have stopped dieting for good. Like most women and many men, I have dieted many times, and from a young age. But I never had much stamina. Dieting exhausted me—not because I was weakened by a lack of food (I was a reasonable dieter), but simply because I ended up fantasizing about food all the time. Especially about all the food I was not allowed to eat. I soon found myself thinking about chocolate truffles every ten seconds, about a piece of German cream torte one minute, and about lamb chops or deep-fried calamari the next. This soon became unbearable, and distracting. So I did what every reasonable person would do: I drifted toward my dreams and broke my diet, again and again—until whole grains came along.
I’m not telling you that whole grains will make you lose twenty pounds in one month. But in my case, they succeeded in doing what no diet had done before. They brought me, a fast-food lover at the time, back into the kitchen. Whole grains and their tantalizing textures and fantastic flavors made me so curious about food that I started to cook. Soon I was on the best diet I have ever been on. And I stayed on it, for good. Most important, it included all food—cream, butter, bacon, and cookies—can you see where I’m going? I soon started to familiarize myself with unknown fruits and vegetables, and later with fish and meats of all kinds. Cooking made me appreciate food. It made me slow down and enjoy. Today we call this “mindful eating.” I believe this happens naturally—when you cook.
I admit I was very lucky. Unlike many of us today, I was never introduced to whole grains as a health food. No one lectured me to add them to my diet, or reprimanded me to eat them because they are “oh so good for you.” When I was growing up in Greece and Germany, some whole grains were still part of everyday life. In Greece, as a kid, I excitedly chewed on wheat berries, barley rusk, and bulgur. In Germany I spooned into warm oatmeal and indulged on whole grain breads, from crusty chewy wheat loaves to deliciously dense rye breads. But that changed when I moved away from home. Frozen pizza and ready-made chocolate pudding with whipped cream became my main food groups, accompanied by coffee, cigarettes, and wine—I was a journalist at a news agency, after all.
That all changed when a German friend of mine brought the whole grains of my childhood back to my table. Without uttering a line about health, she just put plate after plate of lip-smacking, tasty whole grain dishes in front of me—soups, salads, pies, and tarts, all with a distinct chew and impressive yet understated flavor. Hildegard, a single mom and my neighbor at the time, served whole grains with the fervor of a chef. She didn’t skimp on cream or butter. Her meals were beautifully simple, and while German, they were Mediterranean in spirit. She successfully paired the unique flavor of each grain with fish or cheese, fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, marrying them to perfection. She was always hunting for the best ingredients. Her fruit and vegetables were fresh from the farmers’ market, her cream and butter organic when possible. Today we would call someone like her a locavore. I think all she wanted was to eat well. To me, this passion was contagious. She opened up a gustatory universe. And made me curious ab...
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Book Description Ten Speed Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1580083544 A whole-grain cookbook featuring well-balanced and wholesome recipes inspired by the Mediterranean cuisines of Greece, southern France, Italy, and Turkey. Author Maria Speck loves whole grains such as farro, barley, quinoa, and spelt, not only because they are healthy and nutritious, but also because they are versatile ingredients for delicious and satisfying breakfasts, breads, salads, soups, main dishes, and desserts. In Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, Speck draws on her Greek mother's cooking and the foods of her European upbringing to offer 100 recipes that fuse tradition with flavors for the modern palate. Rustic yet elegant dishes such as Creamy Breakfast Farro with Honey-Roasted Grapes, Quinoa Cakes with Smoked Trout, Red Wine Braised Lamb withWheat Berries, and Ricotta Millet Pudding with Blood Orange Syrup are wonderful additions to every home cook's whole-grain repertoire"--. Bookseller Inventory # 14193356
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Book Description Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 211mm x 23mm x 258mm. Hardcover. Food writer Maria Speck's passion for propelling Old World staples such as farro, barley, polenta, and wheat berries to the forefront of new American cooking is beautifully presented .Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 230 pages. 1.025. Bookseller Inventory # 9781580083546