Pereg’s cornucopia of ancient grains

Call it “post Paleo”: it’s agriculture that built civilization and modern human strength. I’m a firm believer in heirloom produce and that includes grains. Even if you think that grains aren’t for you — gluten allergies, etc. — you need to get familiar with the wide variety out there! Pereg is a third generation spice and grain merchant, in business since 1906. I was happy to be hosted to experience it! Their products are 100% natural and Kosher.

Green lentils are considered a superfood, being (relatively) low in carbs, but high in fiber and several vitamins. I cooked mine for 12 minutes: they were tender, but not mushy. They’ve got a neutral, nutty flavor. It can take pungent seasoning, such as Ras El Hanout.

Whole kamut are very flavorful, but as these things go, they’re much higher in carbs. They’re also known as “Khorasan wheat”. You have to soak them overnight, so they require some planning. They have a crisp texture and taste like walnuts! I cooked them with some chicken “Better Than Bouillion”, butter and Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up salt.

Kasha buckwheat brings up memories of my bubbie always trying to push kasha on me. She liked it with pick-your-own blueberries and sugar. I like it better savory. I found it took me over the 20 minutes to cook that they suggest. Try it with freshly cracked pepper, salt and butter. It’s on the softer side, but has more texture than grits. It’s got a wheat flavor. I think it would also be good with sauteed sweet onions. You could also add an egg, fry it like latkes. It’s a nice mild, restorative dish.

Freekeh — besides inviting all kinds of wordplay jokes — retains a firm, pebbly texture like arborio rice. Indeed, they have a pilaf recipe on the back. Since they are prepared with olive oil, they have a richness like matzo balls.

Ivory Teff is a grain I never heard of before, but they claim you can make it like porridge or polenta, as well as grind it into a gluten-free flour for Indian flatbread. It cooks pretty rapidly — keep an eye on the pot. It has a texture like baby caviar eggs, with a neutral flavor, but closer to savory. I like it with strong dried fruits and maple syrup. It’s dark beige. You can also fix it with fresh herbs, including mint treated as a savory.

Quinoa flakes can be made with water or milk. I tried it with sauteed peaches and salt. It has a cooked oats texture.

Baby quinoa (or Kaniwa) are crunchy baby grains, like poppy seeds. You could mix it with cheeseless pesto for a hearty vegan spread. They have a vegetarian burger recipe on the back.

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