A gourmet's brief guide to grains
Technically, the word ''cereals'' means ''grains.'' Healthier than spuds but equally amenable to soaking up a sauce, agreeably bland but with more chew and more vitamins, grains like quinoa, farro, wheat berries and even amaranth are showing up on gourmet dinner plates. It can get confusing because some popular grains, like quinoa, are pseudo-cereals—technically, they’re not grasses—and some terms, like farro, can refer to various strains of wheat. But speaking culinarily, not botanically, these are the grains you’re likely to see on your plate:
Farro Generally this is the Italian name for emmer or einkorn wheat, a hard wheat kernel, but there is a lot of debate over what can be called farro.
Amaranth Cultivated even longer than quinoa, amaranth has been around for 8,000 years and was a staple food of the Aztecs. It’s also used in Mexican and Indian cooking.
Quinoa It’s actually related to beets and tumbleweeds, but that’s irrelevant to the highly nutritious kernels that have been harvested in the Andes for 4,000 years. Note: After harvest, the grains need to be processed to remove the bitter-tasting coating.
Wheat Berries The wheat berry is the unhulled wheat kernel—the ultimate whole wheat. (Milled it becomes whole wheat flour.) It’s available as either a hard or soft grain.
Barley Pearled barley has had its hull removed and the bran polished off; many prefer to use it this way because it cooks faster and is less chewy than regular barley.
Where to Buy Grains
Caputo’s sells several brands of artisanal imported farro. 314 W. 300 South, SLC, 801-531-8669 and 1516 S. 1500 East, SLC, 801-486-6615. Whole Foods Market’s bulk section stocks amaranth, barley, hard red wheat berries (farro) and soft white wheat berries, red, plain and black quinoa, as well as bulgur, whole rye and other types of whole grains. Trolley Square, SLC, and multiple locations along the Wasatch, wholefoodsmarket.com. Honeyville Farms sells all kinds of whole grains, especially suitable for food storage. 389 W. 1830 South, SLC, 801-839-7576.