Photo courtesy of the International Rice Research Instritute
Grains. Rice, quinoa, kasha, grits, polenta, amaranth, buckwheat, wild rice, millet, wheat, barley, oats… All over the world, grains created the base of many peasant diets. In less affluent places, they are still the major source of calories for many. They are likely, and should be, a part of your daily diet. So, you doubtless have leftovers now and again. Again, just like with vegetables, the destination of your leftover will depend on how it began its life in your kitchen. Plain boiled or steamed grains are very easy to re-purpose. Once you’ve added seasonings or additional ingredients, extra care and thought is needed to avoid mixing conflicting flavors. The basic rule of thumb is to always stay within the cuisine you started in, or to only add little more what you already used. A dash of an acid like vinegar or citrus juice is also often helpful to brighten flavors and refresh the dish.

What to do with leftover cooked grains? Anything!

Stir-fry. Toss them with basically any combination of flavors that blends together nicely. Start with canola or olive oil (you could, if you must, even use a little bacon or panchetta or coconut oil), then cook your aromatics like onion or celery, add any herbs or spices to toast briefly, toss in any other items like cooked legumes or vegetables, then finish by adding the grains. Think fried rice: but it need not be Asian. Try an Italian or Creole flavor with long grained rice, or Mexican with quinoa.

Top them with stew. Or leftover soup. You can even top them with some broth and an egg for a meal in a cup. Basically, heat and top with any steaming combination of vegetables, proteins, and seasonings. Even fruit.

Salad. Make a vinaigrette, and toss the grains in it with any of the followings: diced raw or blanched vegetables, nuts, fruit, bits of fish or meat, beans, fresh or dried herbs, and spices. Serve room temperature or warm.

“Rice” balls. Make filled, seasoned grain balls out whatever you have in the fridge. (Google onigiri for the authentic deal.) You’ll need to have slightly sticky grains, so this works best with something that’s a little overcooked. Add some salt or other seasonings (toasted ground nuts are especially good) into your grain. Spoon about half a cup into a damp palm. Make a dent in the center and add little bit of filling– pickles, smoked fish, even finely chopped spinach, or leftover meat or fish. Close the grain around the filling and press into a ball using cupped hands. Wrap in nori, if desired, or roll in sesame seeds.

Porridge. Take your grain and add liquid. Cook, stirring regularly, until it reminds you of hot cereal or risotto. Add flavors and/or diced bit of cooked vegetables, meats, or fruit. (I like maple syrup and nuts for breakfast, or cheese with broccoli and herbs for supper.)

Fried porridge. Make your porridge, but cook until it is quite stiff. A spoon should almost stand up in it unsupported. Pour into a greased pan and let sit for over 2 hours. Slice, and pan fry in a little oil or brush with oil and broil until lightly browned. Alternately, dip your slices into egg and then cornmeal or breadcrumbs before pan frying.

Burgers. Mix your grains with some cooked legumes or seeds/nuts, an egg, and seasonings. Bake on a non-stick baking sheet until browned and cooked through or pan fry. Feel free to add lots of vegetables and call them veggie burgers.

Fritatta. It’s not precisely a frittata, but works very nicely to stretch a smaller amount of grain across more people. Suprise company for dinner? Whip up 3-5 eggs and mix in your seasoning and up to 1 1/2 cups cooked grains. Pour into a greased casserole and bake until solid. It’ll take longer than you think. Also handy for feeding those who should be eating less carbohydrates, but want to feel like they’re eating more.

The eternal casserole base. You heard me. Grains, following by vegetables, protein, and then topped with a sauce and maybe something crunchy on top.

Stuff it. What? Anything you like. Cabbage, grape leaves, giant zucchini, peppers, chicken, turkeys, etc. You can even stuff a baking dish and call it dressing.

Muffins or pancakes. Replace about 1/3 of the flour with cooked grains (not porrige, but distinct grains like rice or millet). Add an extra 1/2 tsp of baking powder or whisk the egg whites to compensate for the additional heaviness of the batter.

Pudding. Rice pudding, but use whatever you have handy. Polenta can become Indian Pudding, for example. Just nothing cooked with garlic. Use the garlic quinoa in the casserole, or even in savory muffins.

Freeze it. That baggie or tupperware will be very convinient one night when you are tired as long as you remember it’s there. Date it, and be sure to clean out the freezer regularly.

Truly out of ideas? Eat it for breakfast: as it, with milk and cinnamon, or with a fried egg on top.

See Part One, for ideas of how to use leftover vegetables: