Alibi V.20 No.28 • July 14-20, 2011 

Mina's Dish

Hearty Flavors From a Handful of Seeds

Cooking with whole grains

Wild rice
Wild rice
Mina Yamashita

I came late to whole grains—being brought up eating white rice at every meal. With the possible exception of rolled oats, most of the grains I encountered were hulled, bleached, sweetened and renutritionized before they hit my plate.

Red rice
Red rice
Mina Yamashita

A roommate once cooked a meal of kasha—buckwheat groats, chopped onions and carrots—one of my first exposures to vegetarianism. I got into brown rice while studying with Sensei Masahilo Nakazono in Santa Fe during the ’70s. Among the many things he taught were the benefits of macrobiotic nutrition. I began to include red aduki beans and brown rice in my diet, pressure cooked to sweetness and seasoned with soy sauce. I was too addicted to modern, Western foods to embrace the austerity of a macrobiotic diet, but I learned that there was a palette of ingredients I had yet to explore.

Forbidden rice
Forbidden rice
Mina Yamashita

Nowadays, there are plenty of whole grains—packaged and in bulk—in standard supermarkets, as well as my pantry. I keep buckwheat groats for kasha, quinoa for tabbouleh, steel-cut oats for hot cereal and baking. And I still keep short-grain white rice, but now it shares the shelf with brown, black, red and wild rices.

Whole grains provide enough sturdiness to a dish to let me forego meat when I want a light meal. I find that leftovers generally freeze well, as with this recipe I modified from

Wild Rice Pancakes

Make these pancakes a hearty meal with homemade applesauce and sour cream. Or serve them as a side dish with a mild horseradish cream sauce.
Makes 12 to 18 pancakes, depending on size


3/4 cup finely diced carrot (you can substitute parsnip or turnip)
3/4 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 finely chopped scallion
1/2 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
1 pinch of nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for the griddle

1) Sauté the carrot, celery, onion, scallions, herbs and nutmeg in the butter over moderate heat, stirring for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and combine with the cooked rice.

2) Whisk together the eggs and the milk in a small bowl, then add to the rice mixture.

3) Sift the flour into the rice mixture, folding it in to avoid lumps. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4) Coat a griddle with oil and bring to medium heat. Scoop the batter in 1/4 to 1/3 cup measures onto the griddle and flatten them slightly. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden.