The Grain Gamut: Three Creative Grain-Based Dishes

The healthy-eating trend that’s slowing becoming tradition is shaping ingredient lists for restaurants across America. From fresh fruits to whole grains, restaurants are forced to create menus that focus on farm-to-table mentalities as opposed to synthetic-style foods. When it comes to grains, many chefs are left scratching their heads. How does one make grain interesting? With a gamut of grains, there are endless possibilities to creating healthy and unique grain-based menu items. <<Tweet This!>>

Barley, buckwheat, millet, rye—the trendiness of New Nordic cooking has helped make whole grains a hot topic in the culinary world. In Northern Europe where grains grow well, they’ve always been staples, but current health trends have also had an influence; Rich in minerals, antioxidants and fiber, and often low in gluten, whole grains are among the stars of the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Everything from oatmeal to risotto is getting a whole lot tastier thanks to whole grains. Here are three delicious, nutritious recipes from chefs Marco Canora of Manhattan’s Hearth, Steve Redzikowski of Denver’s Acorn, and Karen and Quinn Hatfield of the Sycamore Kitchen in Los Angeles.


At L.A.’s Sycamore Kitchen, Karen and Quinn Hatfield combine whole grains with rolled oats for a hearty breakfast. They suggest cooking more barley and quinoa than needed for the recipe; the leftovers can be used in soups, salads and more porridges. To get the intended nutrition from this dish, use barley labeled “hulled” or “hull-less”; pearled barley is not a whole grain. [via The Wall Street Journal]

Total Time: 1½ hours Serves: 4

  • 9 cups water

  • 1 cup hulled barley

  • 1 cup quinoa

  • 5 Medjool dates

  • 1 cup quick-cook rolled oats

  • Salt

  • Cinnamon, for garnish

1. In a medium pot over high heat, bring 3 cups water to boil, then add 1 cup barley. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until tender, about 1¼ hours. Spread ⅔ cup cooked barley over a baking sheet to cool and reserve the rest for another use.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot over high heat, bring 2 cups water to a boil, then add 1 cup quinoa. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain. Spread ⅓ cup cooked quinoa over a baking sheet to cool and reserve the rest for another use.

3. While quinoa and barley cook, bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot over high heat. Blanch dates until tender, 30-45 seconds. Drain and let dates cool. Peel dates, remove pits and roughly chop.


The recipe for this warm salad is adapted from one served at Denver’s Acorn restaurant, where chef-owner Steve Redzikowski tops it with grilled chicken. [via The Wall Street Journal]

Total Time: 1½ hours Serves: 2

For the salad:

  • 1 small delicata squash, peeled, halved and seeded

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • ½ cup farro

  • 3 cups water

  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon

  • ½ cup loosely packed arugula

  • 4 ounces burrata cheese, torn

  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

For the braised artichokes:

  • 3 baby artichokes, trimmed

  • Water to soak, plus 2 cups for braising

  • 1 Fresh lemon juice to soak, plus ½ cup for braising

  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar

  • ¼ cup white wine

  • 8 cloves garlic

  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme

  • 2½ tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon salt

For the pesto:


  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil

  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 small garlic clove

  • Juice of ¼ lemon

  • Salt

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Roast until fork-tender, 15-20 minutes. Let cool and chop into large dice. Set aside ½ cup and reserve remainder for another use.

2. Meanwhile, cook farro: In a medium pot over medium-low heat, bring ½ cup farro and 3 cups water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and place in a large serving bowl.

3. While squash and farro cook, braise artichokes: Soak artichokes in water with a squeeze of lemon juice 5 minutes, then drain. In a stock pot, combine all ingredients and simmer over medium heat until artichokes are soft, 30 minutes. Drain and halve artichokes.

4. Meanwhile, make pesto: Combine all ingredients except oil in food processor. With motor running, drizzle in oil until a thick paste forms.

5. Make salad: Toss cooked farro with 2 tablespoons pesto. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in lemon juice, zest and remaining oil. Gently fold in arugula. Garnish with roasted squash, burrata, braised artichokes and pine nuts.


This whole-grain take on a traditional Italian polenta comes from Marco Canora ’s “A Good Food Day.” Freezing the kale overnight and crumbling the frozen leaves is far less time-consuming than mincing fresh leaves.

Total Time: 40 minutes Serves: 6

  • 6 cups water

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cups amaranth

  • 1½ cups crumbled frozen Tuscan kale leaves

  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a large pot over high heat, bring 6 cups water and 3 pinches salt to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. While whisking, slowly pour amaranth into water, then stir in kale. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until amaranth reaches a pudding-like consistency and grains are tender but still have a little bite, about 30 minutes.

2. Off heat, stir in cheese, oil, a generous dash of pepper and salt to taste.


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