Chapter 15– Accompaniments: Starches & Grains

Some of Pascal’s illustrations are both autobiographical and a public service, of sorts. 

Picture 3
If you are thinking of opening a restaurant, speak to me first!

Today’s preview of Chapter 15 — Starches & Grains is the last of three chapters in our Accompaniments section. Chapter 15 features 21 recipes for starches and grains. I just love accompaniments. Accompaniments offer opportunities to play with both flavors and textures. This recipe is a perfect transitional recipes that includes hearty fall flavors but with its mint, harkens back to summer’s fleeting.

Pilaf of Cracked Wheat, Lentils & Mint
Cracked wheat, usually available in health food stores, is similar in texture and appearance to bulgur. Unlike bulgur, which is pre-steamed and dried, cracked wheat consists of uncooked wheat berries that have been cracked into pieces. This pilaf combines the nutty grain with earthy green lentils, sweet onions and carrots, and fragrant mint.

do ahead Pilaf can be made up to two days ahead, stored in the refrigerator and reheated, well covered, in a 325° oven for 20-25 minutes.

1 cup chopped onions
1⁄2 cup medium chopped carrots
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1⁄4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 cup cracked wheat
3 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄2 cup lentils du Puy, rinsed and picked through for stones
21⁄4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

1 In dry pan over moderate heat, toast cracked wheat until it darkens a little and releases a nutty fragrance, 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan.
2 In a large saucepan over moderate heat, add oil until hot but not smoking. Add onions, carrots and garlic and cook over moderate heat until vegetables have softened and onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Add toasted cracked wheat and lentils and cook for another minute. Add stock, salt and pepper and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
3 Fluff grains with a fork, and stir in scallions, mint and parsley.

serves 6-8

Adjusting Heat As You Go

Most cooking requires frequent attention to adjusting the heat as you go. I often use the “cooking as an act of love” metaphor, and here we can make a rhetorical comparison to foreplay. With foreplay, you make adjustments as you go, responding to cues, always working toward producing a desired effect. Similar principles apply to cooking over heat. Heat naturally builds up in a pan and to maintain even cooking, you may need to lower the flame occasionally. As the pan cools, you may need to adjust the heat once again. Sometimes you want to start something at a high heat and then bring the heat down. Sometimes you want to boil off some liquid. Paying attention and making subtle changes produces
superior results, and this is part of the wonderful satisfaction of cooking.

Tomorrow: We move on to Section 6:  Lighter Meals. This section has two dense chapters beginning the Chapter 16 — Sandwiches & Lighter & Vegetarian Entrées.

Less than two weeks left to buy the book — and companion website — and receive a signed, numbered first edition.

Note: I will be speaking all about At Home — book and companion website — at the Free Library on Thursday, October 15 beginning at 7:30 PM. Hope to see you there.


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