Introduction: The Glamour of Whole Grains
Whole grains have cast a spell on me—from the first sweetened wheat berries I chewed on during my grandfather’s funeral to the comforting corn polenta my Greek mother makes to this day. I crave the tender chewiness of brown rice, the soft, translucent pearls of quinoa, and the warming lightness of millet. I love the subtle sweetness of whole oats, the slight sourness of rye, and the pleasing nuttiness of wheat berries. But I don’t eat whole grains because they are healthy, or wholesome, or to reap their nutritional benefits. To me, whole grains carry luxurious qualities: lively textures, vivid colors, and rich flavors.
My passion is rooted in my upbringing. I was raised by a Greek mom, a fervent home cook, and a gluttonous food-loving father from Germany. I spent parts of my childhood in Greece, where my grandmother and my aunt would rise at 4:oo A.M. on holidays to prepare food for the extended family, from elaborately stuffed grape leaves with currants and pine nuts to oven-roasted kid lamb and bulgur pilaf. And I spent my formative years in Germany, where whole grains are part of the culinary fabric to this day, most famously in the country’s rustic loaves of dark bread.
Our family table reflected these two contrasting cultures: my mom’s tomato omelet with feta cheese was served with huge slices of my dad’s favorite whole grain bread, cut from a traditional loaf almost the size of a bicycle tire. One week we indulged on German pork roast with homemade gravy, the next we spooned into tangy Greek stifadho, a wine-infused beef stew. My dad couldn’t imagine life without liverwurst; my mom suffered when she couldn’t find oranges or lemons.
This heritage is at the heart of this book. In it, I combine my mom’s Mediterranean cuisine—its simplicity, its mesmerizing aromas, and its use of fresh ingredients—with the centuries-old traditions of preparing whole grain foods in northern Europe. In a nutshell, this whole grain cookbook brings you the bounty of the Mediterranean in tandem with the vast universe of ancient whole grains. It will take you on a journey from Greece to Turkey, from the south of France to Italy, and to Lebanon, adding tempting and delicious meals to your table with innovative flavors and new textures…