We love using whole grains in all kinds of ways—whole in soup, pilaf, or stir fry; cracked in cereal or baking; or ground into flour for pancakes, muffins, biscuits, pasta, etc. We even make bread with our soft white wheat flour. If you like rice dishes, but are serious about local, then try wheat or barley instead of rice. It takes about as long as brown rice to cook (1 hr).
In 2014, we started growing a new hull-less variety called ‘Streaker’ bred by Pat Hayes at OSU. Use it instead of pearled barley for full flavor and nutritional benefit. We also still have our old standby, Alba (also bred locally), which comes the old-fashioned way–in the hull. To remove hulls from barley berries, stir in blender for about 45 seconds. Then pour into a coarse kitchen strainer or onto a piece of 1/8” hardware cloth (available at any hardware store) to separate berries from hulls.
Cooking with whole grains couldn’t be simpler. For the rough-and-ready cook like Paul, you only need to remember two things: the water-to-grain ratio is 2:1 (same as rice); cooking time is about an hour.
Here’s the long version: bring water (or broth) to a boil, add grain (plus a little salt if you like), reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the grain is as soft as you like it (about an hour), checking once towards the end to make sure you added enough water. If there’s water left, pour through a strainer (try that with rice!).
I did recently take the time to soak some wheatberries overnight, and I do think I like the flavor better. We’d be interested to hear from you about your favorite way to do it.
The nice thing about cooked grains is that they keep well in the refrigerator. Ideally you should always have some on hand to pull out of the fridge to go with some left-over pasta sauce or stir-fry or gravy, or whatever, for lunch.