There seems to be a renewed interest in “ancient” grains. Spelt, emmer (a/k/a farro), and barley are all experiencing a resurgence of popularity. And for good reason. Ancient grains are high in fiber and protein and, perhaps more important, they have a delicious and intense flavor that just can’t be replicated by your mother’s box of rice.
One of my favorite ancient grains is freekah, a green wheat that originated in the Middle East, and which is sun-dried and roasted during the production process. It has a nutty flavor and a slightly chewy texture, and it’s delicious whether served hot or turned into a cold salad. Moreover, it’s as easy to cook as that box of rice I mentioned earlier. So give it a try and take delight in both the taste and the fact that everything old is new again.
Roasted shallots are one of those things that easily impress dinner guests. “Did you individually peel every single one of these?,” they always ask, astounded by the amount of work and time they believe that would take. But peeling shallots is amazingly simple if you first blanch them in a pot of boiling water for a minute or two before dousing them in cold water. The skins will then slip right off in your fingers, especially if you first trim off the ends with a sharp knife.
The roasting part of the cooking process is even easier. Just place the peeled shallots in some melted butter in a cast iron skillet, add salt and pepper, and swirl around over high heat for a minute before placing the entire pan in an oven. It doesn’t really matter what temperature the oven is, as that will only determine how long it takes for the shallots to turn golden brown. I like to turn them over part way through the cooking process, and sometimes I’ll add whole garlic cloves and a sprig of thyme to the pan. But whether you add anything else or not, you’ll love how deliciously sweet they taste, and your dinner guests will think you’re a magician in the kitchen.
The first pumpkin holiday has already come and gone, but we still have Thanksgiving and Chrismukkah ahead of us, and that means many more pumpkins will be crossing our threshold before year’s end. Not only will those pumpkins bring us soup, pies, and pancakes, but they’ll produce countless seeds, all of which will be tossed in olive and salt, and slowly roasted in a low-temperature oven. Some of the roasted pumpkin seeds will then find themselves tossed into dinner salads, but most will simply end up briefly in the palms of our hands on their way to our impatient mouths.