The cover of the book Grain Power is vibrant and inviting. With a fresh-looking, colourful, veg-centric pizza staring you down, it’s easy to be drawn in. So when I first got a copy of the book, I couldn’t help but immediately paw through each and every page. The authors highlight a full range of non-traditional ancient grains, seeds, and pseudograins, and two of my favourite little seeds—amaranth and chia—play key roles in many of the dishes. Given this, you can probably imagine how excited I was to get a copy of the book.
First off, the book is beautiful. The photos are stunning and delightfully welcoming, each inspiring feelings of vitality and health. And the overview at the beginning is fantastic, introducing readers to these perhaps unfamiliar ancient grains and providing information on their properties, uses, preferred storing methods, and what to expect when cooking with them. The grains/seeds commonly found in the book include amaranth, buckwheat, chia, quinoa, kañiwa (a quinoa relative), millet, oats, sorghum, and teff. And though you might expect a lot of cereals, pilafs, or baked goods in this book, that’s not all that it has to offer. There are definitely many delicious-looking recipes of that ilk; trust me. But Grain Power also includes a range of recipes like souvlaki amaranth meatballs with cucumber yogurt dip and fresh vegetables, chipotle mango salsa on black bean sprout tostadas, chocolate ancient grain torte with raspberry chia sauce, chile lime popped amaranth (like popcorn!), six seed and onion quinoa crackers, raspberry chia jam, chocolate, banana, and peanut butter amaranth smoothies, and much, much more! So far, I’ve made the mason jar ancient grain breakfast (essentially souped-up overnight grains and seeds), the millet and quinoa blueberry pecan snack bars, and the walnut and broccoli superblend salad with success. Then again, I’ve also made a couple of things that didn’t work out as well. The chocolate chia raisin walnut cookies sound amazing (I know!), but the recipe could use a bit of fine-tuning. Sadly, they came out like flavourless, airy pillows. Now that I’ve gotten a bit of baking theory under my belt in culinary school, I suspect it’s because of the way in which the eggs were incorporated into the butter and sugar. With some re-working, the recipe has potential, but I wouldn’t recommend making these cookies as is. They were a flop.
The gorgeous Gluten-free Veggie Pizza from the front cover made it into my “like” category, but be warned: the hearty, earthy, and deeply flavourful buckwheat crust is not for everybody. L found the flavours in the crust to be entirely overpowering and didn’t really enjoy it. And, along those lines, if you’re new to the vast flavour profiles of ancient grains, you might want to start with a snack or cozy baked breakfast meal, something a little more subdued or where you might “expect” those flavours. On the other hand, if you’re palate is already attuned to the complex, nutty, and sometimes sour flavours that you can get with ancient grains, you might want to dive right in with this pizza. I liked it, but because the strong buckwheat tones aren’t for everyone, I’d like to try replacing some of the buckwheat flour with tapioca starch or white rice flour going forward. (Note: I have not done this yet. If you try it, I’d love to know how it works out for you!) I topped this pie with more traditional vegetable toppings because it’s what was recommended in the book (and it also happened to be what I had on hand). But some of my favourite vegetarian pizzas include roasted broccoli, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and fresh garlic. Use what you like! You could also opt to eat this as a flat bread served with dips, grilled veggies, olives, and cheeses.
Ancient grains are obviously not new, but they are certainly new to the spotlight, and for good reason: they’ve been relatively unadulterated (unlike corn and wheat), they have many nutritional benefits if prepared properly, and they offer our mainstream palates a little more variety, texture, and choice. For those reasons alone, Grain Power is a book that I’m happy to have on my shelf.
- ⅓ cup (75ml) sorghum flour
- ⅓ cup (75ml) millet flour
- ½ cup (125ml) light buckwheat flour
- ½ tsp (2ml) xanthan gum
- ½ tsp (2ml) salt
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 tsp liquid honey
- 1.5 tsp quick-rise yeast
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Light flour, such as white or brown rice, for rolling
- ½ cup pizza sauce, or more to taste
- 1 tbsp ghee or grape seed oil
- 1 sweet red bell pepper, thinly sliced into ¼-inch thick strips
- 1 sweet yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced into ¼-inch thick strips
- ½ cup thinly sliced onion of similar size
- ¼ cup thinly sliced baby spinach
- A handful of black olives *I used oil cured.
- ½ cup grated mozzarella
- ½ cup goats cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, optional
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- ¼ tsp, or more or less to taste, chile flakes, optional
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sorghum, millet, and buckwheat flours with the xanthan gum and salt, until well-combined.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the warm water and honey. Sprinkle in the yeast, stir, and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in the egg-white and olive oil.
- Pour over the flour mixture and stir until combined. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove parchment from baking sheet and place on the counter or other firm surface. Remove dough from the bowl. Form into a disk and sprinkle with flour. Roll witha rolling pin into a 12-inch wide crust about ¼-inch thick (no need to flip the crust). Grabbing opposite corners of the parchment, place it back on the baking sheet. Spread with pizza sauce and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes.
- During this time, preheat a 10-inch saute pan on medium heat and heat the ghee. Stir in the peppers and onions; cook, stirring until onions are starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Remove crust from the oven and top with cooked vegetables. Sprinkle with spinach, olives, and cheeses.
- Bake for 8 minutes, or until the crust is golden on the bottom. Turn on broiler and place pizza under the broiler for a minute, or two until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.
- Remove from the oven and cut into slices. Sprinkle with chopped basil and chile flakes, if desired. Serve immediately.