Maria Speck grew up in Greece and Germany before moving to the United States as a young adult. She is a writer and journalist, and has contributed to Gourmet, Saveur, and Gastronomica, as well as Marie Claire and Elle. Her book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, will give you all the basics of cooking with whole grains so you can appreciate the very best that each has to offer.
Style at Home: What would you say is the biggest misconception home cooks have about whole grains?
Maria Speck: I believe there are two major misperceptions about whole grains: people think they take forever to cook, and they are under the impression that all whole grains are chewy and about as appealing to eat as bricks! With my book, I hope to show that whole grains bring a dynamic range of flavours and textures to our tables—from comforting polenta, quinoa and millet to deliciously chewy whole wheat berries or hulled barley. To help busy families and professionals, I have divided whole grains into “quick-cooking” grains for weeknights (such as bulgur, buckwheat, whole wheat couscous), and “slow-cooking” whole grains which can be prepared ahead of time (spelt, rye, Kamut).
S@H: A lot of people aren’t used to incorporating grains into their diets – what is your suggestion for an easy way to start?
MS: I always suggest looking for recipes that have specifically been written for whole grains. Don’t just replace the pasta in your favourite dinner recipe with whole grain pasta. Instead, look for recipes with assertive ingredients which enhance the distinct aroma of hearty whole wheat pasta for an amazing new flavour experience. In my recipes, I always pair each grain with ingredients that highlight its character to create an appealing and delicious meal.