Recipes on August 22, 2012 by

The Making of “Grain Mains”

Later this week, we’ll be reviewing and giving away a copy of Grain Mains, the new book from Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. We wanted to know a little bit more about why they wrote this book and how they came to use Bob’s Red Mill products. The guys were kind enough to indulge us. Enjoy! 

Sure, recipe-testing for a new project can be daunting. Every cookbook author or food blogger knows that. But it’s also like an extended birthday party: lots of good food and lots of presents.

Well, not exactly presents. More like ingredients, all waiting to be unpacked and put away. Still, if you squint just right, you can see all those bags and boxes as the best party you ever threw yourself.

When we started working on our new cookbook, GRAIN MAINS: 101 SURPRISING AND SATISFYING WHOLE GRAIN RECIPES FOR EVERY MEAL OF THE DAY, we knew we’d have to stock up on whole grains. We looked far and wide—and placed quite an order online with Bob’s Red Mill one chilly autumn afternoon when the only heat was from the red and orange blaze of the New England maples in our backyard.

True to form, our order came in a big box. Really big. So big that our UPS carrier, hoisting it onto his shoulder, said, “Boy, you must like grains.”

He’s used to it. Someday, we’ll tell you about half a butchered pig arriving on his truck.

We took the box inside and cracked it open. It was like Christmas in, well, October. (Apparently recipe-testing for cookbooks works on contract, not cliché.) We had grains aplenty: rye berries, triticale berries, soft white wheat berries, spelt berries, Kamut, amaranth, barley grits, and millet.

Over time, we came to realize that a stocked pantry of whole grains is more than just fun. They’re money in the bank, investments that pay off over time. Whole grains are dried for long storage, so they last well into the winter, even beyond. When a bleak day descended on us, we knew we could figure out something for lunch or dinner, especially since we had whole grains on hand.

Because of that comfy security, we ended up writing a book of whole-grain main courses, breakfast to dinner. We skipped the baking recipes, blew off the side dishes, and moved whole grains to the center of the plate. As we came to see, whole grains are not just nutritional wonders, not just a staple of human civilization for millennia, but also the gourmet ingredients hiding in plain sight: for example, the sweet-and-sour slapdash of rye berries; the dank, chewy earthiness of hull-less barley; the mild, grassy pop of Kamut; and the sophisticated, slightly bitter undertones of buckwheat.

Yet whole grains are also sturdy, durable, long-lasting. Other gourmet ingredients are finicky—we’re looking at you, artisanal cheese—and have to be used within days. Whole grains stick around.

Which means they can become the very reason for dinner, not a side dish at the edge of the plate: bulgur burgers, spicy millet and coconut soup, brown rice stuffed cabbage, a wild rice salad with shaved fennel and pistachios, and even the best-ever granola, to name just a few. We’ve still got a full pantry, ready to make all the recipes in our book. And more besides. We’re thinking about lunch right now.


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