technique: green your grains

When it comes to day-to-day cooking, I don't usually follow recipes. Instead, I like to think in terms of general principles of cooking, adapting them to different flavors and ingredients as necessary. Of course, one can learn such techniques from following another chef's recipe, which brings me to Rick Bayless.

 "Greened Grains" in a rice bowl—freekeh cooked in a sorrel/ramp broth

"Greened Grains" in a rice bowl—freekeh cooked in a sorrel/ramp broth

I had the happy opportunity to meet RIck Bayless through my work at the Institute of Culinary Education, and let me tell you—he knows his stuff. Being something of a novice in the field of Mexican cuisine, I felt inspired to host a dinner party inspired by Bayless' signature recipes, which is how I discovered the magic of poblano rice

It's a simple process. Chop and cook your peppers in broth, blend that mixture until smooth, and then cook rice in the blended poblano liquid. Though basic, it's a totally *genius* idea, because it infuses what would otherwise be just an ordinary side dish with bold flavor that transcends the bland status of "starch." 

I've since applied this process of "greening my grains" to a whole slew of ingredients. I find this technique especially useful in spring, when I tend to overbuy seasonal ingredients like garlic scapes, ramps or sorrel—not to mention those times when I'm swimming in leftover herbs. For the ultimate no-fuss version of this technique, I blend up leftover aromatics, herbs or green vegetables (that might otherwise go to waste!) with a touch of water and freeze. Then, when I'm ready to make a big pot of grains for the week (see: freekeh, rice, quinoa, etc.), I'll toss my pre-frozen portion of greens into the broth and simply follow the standard cooking process for said grain.

Whether you're topping these grains with a runny egg, mixing them into a rice bowl, or sticking to the side dish strategy, this sustainable technique is a smart way to make the most of fresh produce that might otherwise go to waste. Most importantly, it's an easy way to make everyday meals just a little more exciting.