When the leaves start changing colors and the air turns cooler, thoughts turn to hearty, warming fare, making fall the perfect season to cook with whole grains. Not only do they add flavor and texture to your meals, but a host of health-enhancing nutrients as well.
Considered “good carbs,” since they can help stabilize blood-sugar levels, ward off hunger and cravings, and help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, whole grains are worth getting acquainted with. Once you’re on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet, you can enjoy a half-cup serving as part of your meals or include grains as an ingredient in main-dish salads or vegetable dishes, for example. Here are some lesser-known grains you might want to try this fall.
Black rice. Black rice is a nutritional dynamo that’s loaded with antioxidants called anthocyanins, which may help protect against heart disease and cancer. Sold in health food stores and larger supermarkets, black rice is a novel addition to many salads. Combine cooked black rice with thawed, shelled edamame, cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli florets, and sliced scallions, and toss with a lemony vinaigrette. Or try subbing black rice for the wild rice in this Savory Shrimp over Wild Rice, which features lightly spiced, sautéed shrimp and halved cherry tomatoes.
Brown basmati rice. Richly flavored and with a longer, thinner grain than regular brown rice, brown basmati rice has a lovely, sweet flavor. A good source of vitamins and minerals, it’s worth seeking out in larger supermarkets and health food stores. Brown basmati rice makes a great substitute for white basmati rice or standard brown rice in main dishes, though it’s typically eaten as a side dish. You can use brown basmati rice instead of the brown rice called for in this cilantro-spiked Curried Brown Rice with Mushrooms and Peas, a particularly good side dish that pairs well with roast chicken.
Brown rice couscous. Unlike traditional couscous, which is made from semolina wheat — brown rice couscous is made from brown rice that has been gently crushed into tiny granules and then fire roasted to add an extra nutty flavor and stabilize the bran and germ (the most nutritious parts of the grain). It typically takes just 15 minutes to prepare following package directions. Choose the plain rather than flavored varieties on the South Beach Diet. Brown rice couscous makes a very good pilaf when combined with vegetables like spinach and fennel, and it also is excellent as a side dish with a variety of grilled meats and fish. For a change of pace, use brown rice couscous rather than the whole-wheat couscous in this high-fiber Tomato-Basil Couscous Salad. It’s a nicely seasoned blend of couscous, chickpeas, romaine lettuce, chopped tomato, and chopped scallion paired with a lemony basil dressing.
Bulgur. When wheat kernels are steamed, dried, and crushed, this nutrient-dense whole grain is the delicious result. Bulgur, which comes in a fine, medium, or coarse grind, differs from cracked wheat in that it’s been precooked. It’s delicious in pilafs as well as salads such as tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern dish that also contains fresh mint, fresh parsley, chopped tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil. In this light, lemony Bulgur, Cucumber, and Mint Salad, which is a fine addition to a take-along lunch, crunchy cucumber, chopped fresh mint, and cubed tomato provide color and flavor.
Farro. An ancient Roman grain that’s high in fiber, this is a good choice at any meal. Thanks to a chewy texture and nutty taste that’s reminiscent of oats, versatile farro is an excellent option as a breakfast cereal or a good substitute for whole-wheat pasta in a variety of dishes. It’s delicious cooked in low-sodium chicken broth and served on its own, it’s great for stuffing peppers or zucchini, and it is a fine addition to hearty salads. The type of farro most commonly sold in supermarkets is semi-pearled, and it doesn’t need soaking. When you’re in the mood for a seafood dinner, serve our Grilled Salmon with Farro Salad. The farro and salmon are tossed with parsley, scallions, lemon juice, olive oil, and orange zest.
Quinoa. A superfood that hails from South America, quinoa is the highest in protein of all the grains. Considered a complete protein because it has all eight essential amino acids, quinoa has a light texture that makes it a natural for pilafs and salads. Pressed for time? Quinoa takes about half as long to cook as brown rice. When lightly toasted, it’s delicious in this walnut-topped Warm Quinoa Salad with Edamame and Tarragon.