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Mad Hungry: Whole Grains

Martha Stewart Living, September 2011

More and more, the fridges in our offices are filled with containers brought in by staffers weary of expensive, not-so-great store-bought lunches. Indeed, a little preplanning is all it takes to make a meal that does double duty: first as a delicious weeknight dinner and then as an affordable, energy-boosting lunch. What more could you want midday? Maybe a two-hour alfresco break, but back to real life, folks.

Grains -- brown rice, barley, and farro, to name a few -- are my secret weapon for homemade to-go salads. Almost any veggies, herbs, and meats can be mixed in. But the first step is to add some acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice, to the grains while they are hot so every bite has zip. The three variations here (by the way, feel free to use different grains) hold up beautifully in the refrigerator, which makes them excellent for do-ahead entertaining as well.

All In the Mix

Stir carrot, celery, mushrooms, and a mustardy vinaigrette into cooked barley (brown rice works, too). The sunny flavors of tomatoes, herbs, and feta make a transporting -- and transportable -- lunch.

Zebra stainless steel lunchbox, $20,

Three of a Kind

With grain salads in the fridge, you’re good to go. Try the flavor combos below, or improvise with your own favorite ingredients.

Delitainer 32-ounce containers with lids, $15.85 for 24,


Great Grains

A slow simmer coaxes grains to tenderness. To maximize flavor, stir fresh lemon juice or vinegar into the pot while the grains are still warm.

1. Pearl Barley

Simmer 1 cup barley + 2 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 40 minutes. (Makes 3 cups.)

2. Bulgur

Simmer 1 cup bulgur + 1 1/2 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes. (Makes 3 cups.)

3. Wild rice

Simmer 1 1/4 cups wild rice + 2 1/3 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 45 to 50 minutes. (Makes 3 1/2 cups.)

4. Farro

Soak 1 cup farro ( for 25 minutes; drain. Simmer with 2 3/4 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, uncovered, for 25 minutes. (Makes 2 1/2 cups.)

5. Wheat Berries

Simmer 1 cup wheat berries + 3 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 2 hours. (Makes 3 1/2 cups.)

6. Brown Rice

Simmer 1 cup rice + 1 3/4 cups water + 1/2 teaspoon salt, covered, for 50 minutes. (Makes 3 cups.)

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