Nourishing Autumn Heirloom Grains for Breakfast
Ngoc Minh Ngo
The heirloom kitchen is a space that honors not just the best ingredients but also the techniques and wisdom of our ancestors.
I would like to introduce the idea of the heirloom kitchen as a space that honors not just the best ingredients but also the techniques and wisdom of our ancestors.
Heirloom looks to the ancient methods of food preparation through the act of slow cooking and many, although not all, heirloom ingredients. Traditional foods, such as dairy, grains, meat, and, of course, vegetables all enjoy a place at my modern table. They are prepared using techniques of fermentation, soaking, and sometimes extended cooking to heighten and extract their most beneficial qualities.
Fermentation has played a strong role in my personal wellness regimen and the creativity of my culinary repertoire. It is an ancient technique of preservation for the scrupulous cook that has also proved to be remarkably beneficial to the human microbiome. (We are, after all, comprised of up to ten times more microbial cells than we are of human cells! This makes our genetic DNA a representation of more than just, well, us.) Simply put, the more fermented probiotic foods we consume, the stronger and healthier we may become. (Read "How Our Microbes Tie Us To Every Living Thing on Earth".)
If you make heirloom grains, flours, seeds, or beans a priority in your kitchen, you may at first be stumped for access to these specialty ingredients. Fortunately, the demand is growing as a reflection of interest in more delicious and nutritious alternatives to genetically engineered or commodity staples. With a little resourcefulness and some persistence, it is possible to source them through a local farmer or market or by mail order.
I encourage you to explore nourishing traditions, support better agricultural practices, and embrace heirloom ingredients in an attempt to restore long-term vigor for ourselves and generations to come.
Morning Kasha Porridge
Makes 1 large or 2 small servings
This hearty, sweet recipe is a basic morning gruel that you can enrich with the milk of your choice, fruits, nuts, and warming spices. The garnishes are a delightful autumn blend of pears and persimmons, but feel free to substitute other seasonal fruits such as apricots, peaches, plums, or apples. This porridge is a canvas—you can barely sweeten it and top it with a simple sprinkle of hemp seeds or chia seeds, you can finish with a decadent dollop of cream, or you can meet somewhere in between like I do.
½ cup whole kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)
1 ¼ cups whole cow’s milk or nondairy milk of your choice (coconut works well)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
¼ cup dried cherries or golden raisins
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
¼ to ½ cup water
2 tablespoons Clarified Butter, coconut oil, or a nut oil
1 large pear, or a handful of small Seckel pears or prune plums, cored and sliced ½ inch thick
FOR THE GARNISH (OPTIONAL)
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh cream, or Milk Kefir, to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar, to taste
Generous spoonful of Candied Persimmons with their syrup
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts work well) and/or 2 teaspoons hemp seeds or chia seeds
In a small saucepan, toast the kasha over medium-high heat until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, dried cherries, cardamom, allspice, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and salt and cover. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally. Add the water and continue cooking until the groats have begun to break down and become thick and creamy, 10 to 12 minutes more.
In a small bowl, toss together the sliced fruit, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. While the porridge is cooking, heat the clarified butter in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Place the sliced fruit into the skillet in a single layer and leave to sizzle until golden brown. Flip the fruit and cook until both sides are golden brown. Spoon the porridge into bowls and drizzle with cream and maple syrup. Top with the caramelized fruit, the candied persimmons, and toasted nuts and/or seeds.