Recipes That Top the Charts

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

These recipes make good companions for a roast or grilled meat or fish. They can be halved (use 1/4 cup where 1/3 cup is called for), and all of them can be prepared in advance. See the author's spreadsheet categories at left and below.

Hulled Barley With Carrots, Raisins and Walnuts

8 servings

Barley might be a top candidate for the title of least-appreciated grain. And hulled barley, the least-refined form of the grain, contains much more beneficial fiber and nutrients than the more readily available pearl barley, which has gone through several scrubbings to remove the grain's hull and give it a pearl-like appearance.

Hulled barley has a mildly nutty taste and a pleasantly chewy texture, making it an easy companion for dried fruits, herbs and aromatic vegetables. It's available at some Whole Foods Markets (79 cents per pound) or online, where it sells for a little more than $1 a pound.

Or you can substitute pearl barley.

This dish can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

1 1/4 cups hulled barley (may substitute pearl barley)

Salt

2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup seedless dark raisins

1/4 cup golden raisins

2 large shallots, finely chopped

1 bunch scallions, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced

1 large stalk celery, diced

1/3 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Leaves from 1 or 2 sprigs hyssop or lemon balm, finely chopped (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a kettle of water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low so the water stays hot. Place the barley, with a generous pinch of salt, in a medium saucepan. Cover with hot water from the kettle to a depth of half an inch and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook gently, checking frequently and adding a splash or two of hot water as needed, up to a cup or so in total. The barley is done when all the water has been absorbed and the grains are plump and tender, about 45 to 50 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked barley, carrots, walnuts, raisins, shallots, scallions, celery, parsley and herbs, if desired. Add the olive oil and vinegar. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Per serving: 214 calories, 5 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 57 mg sodium, 7 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Anne McDonough; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Brown Rice Pilaf With Roasted Cauliflower, Dried Fruits and Cashews

8 servings

Over the millennia, people have sought out white rice and other highly polished grains as a sign of wealth and prestige, regarding whole grains as food for the poor. Well, it turns out the impoverished were getting all the flavor and nutrition.

So it is with this Indian-inspired dish, in which unprocessed brown rice teams with cauliflower roasted with cumin and turmeric. The rice I prefer, Lundberg Wehani from Lundberg Family Farms in Richvale, Calif., is worth seeking out. (It's available at Whole Foods Markets, Balducci's and some area food co-ops). It has a deep chestnut color, rich flavor and easy texture.

A possible substitute would be red rice. Conventional brown rice comes in a distant third in my book.

This dish can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.

1 medium head cauliflower, cored and split into small florets

Some extra-virgin olive oil for coating the cauliflower, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons

Salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 1/4 cups unprocessed brown rice, such as Lundberg Wehani (may substitute red rice, such as Lotus Foods' Bhutanese Red Rice)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped unroasted, unsalted cashews

1/3 cup seedless dark raisins

1/3 cup dried apricots, diced

1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1/4 to 1/3 cup coarsely chopped mint

Juice of 1/2 lemon (1 1/2 tablespoons)

Freshly ground black pepper

Position an oven rack on the upper level and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Have ready a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with just enough olive oil to coat. Season generously with salt. Dust the cauliflower with cumin and turmeric and combine thoroughly. Spread the florets on the baking sheet and roast, turning the cauliflower once or twice so it doesn't burn, for about 25 minutes, or until the florets are cooked through and deeply browned in places. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, bring a kettle of water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low so the water stays hot. Place the brown rice, adding a generous pinch of salt, in a small saucepan. Cover with hot water from the kettle to a depth of half an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook gently for about 45 minutes, checking frequently and adding a splash or two of hot water as needed, up to a cup or so in total. The rice is done when the water has been completely absorbed and the grains are plump and tender. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the roasted florets, cooked rice, cashews, raisins, apricots, cilantro and mint. Add the lemon juice and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Adjust salt and add pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Per serving: 151 calories, 5 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 78 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Randy Richter; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Wheat Berry and Chickpea Salad With Olives and Feta Cheese

8 servings

Here, the flavors of olives, artichokes, roasted red peppers and feta cheese transport me to a small, sunbaked taverna somewhere overlooking the Mediterranean. Give me a grilled fish and a pitcher of cold white wine, and I would be set.

Wheat berry is the whole grain of wheat, before it has been processed into bran, germ or flour. Some recipes call for soaking the berries before cooking. But I've never had any trouble cooking them in less than an hour in lightly salted water. They have a lightly nutty flavor and are pleasant to chew. They're also relatively inexpensive and readily available in bulk at Whole Foods and health food stores.

This dish can be made up to 3 days ahead without the feta cheese and refrigerated in an airtight container. Add the cheese just before serving.

1 cup wheat berries

Salt

1 cup (cooked or canned) drained and rinsed chickpeas (optional)

2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup well-seasoned, oil-cured black olives (pits removed), coarsely chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped marinated artichokes, drained

1/2 cup coarsely chopped radicchio

1/2 cup coarsely chopped arugula

1/3 cup roasted red peppers, diced

10 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a kettle of water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low so the water stays hot. Place the wheat berries in a small pan, adding a generous pinch of salt. Cover with hot water from the kettle to a depth of half an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and cook gently, checking frequently and adding a splash or two of hot water as needed, up to a cup or so in total. The berries are done when all the water has been absorbed and the grains are plump and tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, if desired, feta cheese, olives, artichokes, radicchio, arugula, roasted peppers and tomatoes. Add the cooled wheat berries and stir to combine. Add the lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Per serving: 199 calories, 8 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 2 g saturated fat, 262 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Leigh Lambert; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Bulgur and Lentil Pilaf With Fava Beans

8 servings

The combination of bulgur -- a precooked version of cracked whole wheat kernels -- and lentils makes this a satisfying dish on its own. Cherry tomatoes, fava beans, mint and fennel inject lighter accents. I use the dark-green French lentils, because they maintain a firm texture even after they're cooked. The easiest fava beans to work with are frozen, usually available in Middle Eastern and Latin markets. They're already shelled and are enclosed in a membrane.

To get at the beans, first cook them in their membranes in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and chill them in a bowl of cold water. (The beans should be just cooked through, not mushy.) Using the tip of a paring knife, slice the membrane open and squeeze out the bean. If this seems like too much bother, or if you can't find favas, substitute edamame (or soybeans).

This dish can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

2/3 cup bulgur wheat

Salt

2/3 cup lentils

1/2 cup fava beans, cooked and membranes removed (may substitute cooked edamame)

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 cup red onion, diced

1/3 cup fennel bulb, diced

1/3 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup coarsely chopped mint

1/4 cup coarsely chopped dill (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Bring a kettle of water to boil. Place the bulgur with a generous pinch of salt in a medium bowl and add boiling water to barely cover. Place a pot lid inside the bowl to cover the grains and prevent steam from escaping. Check the bulgur for doneness after 10 minutes. Check frequently, stirring the grains, and add a splash or two of hot water as needed. The bulgur is done when the water has been absorbed and grains are plump and tender, about 20 minutes.

Separately, place the lentils with a generous pinch of salt in a small pan. Cover with hot water from the kettle to a depth of half an inch and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook gently, adding water as needed until the lentils are plump and tender, but not mushy, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked bulgur, cooked lentils, fava beans, tomatoes, onion, fennel, parsley, mint and dill, if desired. Add the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with lemon juice, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Per serving: 138 calories, 7 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g saturated fat, 44 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Michael Taylor; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Wild Rice and Quinoa Pilaf With Toasted Pecans and Dried Cranberries

8 servings

I have a particular fondness for this dish because the ingredients are so New World. The flavor combination works perfectly alongside a Thanksgiving roast turkey or a Christmas goose. It would also sit proudly with a glazed ham or on any kind of festive buffet.

This dish can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

2/3 cup wild rice

Salt

2/3 cup quinoa

1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted, then coarsely chopped*

1/2 cup dried cranberries, rehydrated if necessary*

1 bunch scallions, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced

1/3 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a kettle of water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low so the water stays hot. Place the wild rice with a generous pinch of salt in a small pan. Cover with hot water from the kettle to a depth of half an inch and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently, checking frequently and adding a splash or two of hot water as needed, up to a cup or so in total. The wild rice is done when the water has been fully absorbed and the grains are cracked and tender, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a small pan over high heat. Being careful not to burn the quinoa, shake and toss the grains frequently until they begin to pop and crackle rapidly, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. With the pot lid in one hand, pour about 1/2 cup hot water from the kettle over the quinoa and cover the pot quickly, as the hot quinoa will erupt into a burst of spitting and splattering. When the bubbling action has subsided, pour additional hot water over the quinoa to a depth of half an inch and return the pan to low heat. Add a generous pinch of salt, cover and allow to cook gently, checking frequently and adding a splash or two of hot water as needed, up to a cup or so in total. The quinoa is done when the water has been completely absorbed and the grains are tender and fluffy, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the wild rice, quinoa, pecans, cranberries, scallions and parsley. Stir in the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve lightly warmed or at room temperature.

*NOTES: To toast nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and place them in a 350-degree oven, shaking the pan occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully because nuts will burn quickly.

Fresh and soft cranberries can be eaten as is. Firm berries should be rehydrated by placing them in a small bowl with a couple of tablespoons of water and microwaving for a minute or two on a high setting, or until they are plump and juicy. Allow to cool, then drain.

Per serving: 196 calories, 5 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 42 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Hal Mehlman; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

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