Thus believes Norma Masip Koenig, who teaches a Saturday class on "Amazing Grains Cuisine" in which she preaches a mix and match theology of the Four G's - greens, grains, "gravy" and garnish. For example, a "Four G" dish might layer fresh watercress, couscous, tangy eggplant sauce and a sprinkling of nuts.
Koenig says grains offer iron, calcium, proteins and natural roughage. Whole grains are "an attitude, a state of mind, a willingness to be conscious of what we ingest."
She explains, "I'm a pasta lover. (But) once I understood that pasta actually is not a rich food - it's a very weak food because it's refined - so in my diet I have cut down my pasta consumption. I'd rather have yams, potatoes, grains and beans, because those are whole foods."
Koenig, 53, is earning a master of public health degree in gerontology at the University of Hawaii. A straight talker with a French accent, she says, "Never sacrifice taste because it's healthy. I feel that the problem with our society is that they conceptualize health food as being rugged, earthy, insipid and not appetizing. And, of course, that doesn't feel good here and they don't go for it.
Koenig is ethnically Catalan (of the Catalunia region of Northeastern Spain) and was born and raised in Southern France. She gives private lessons in the French and Spanish languages, and has taught Lyon Arboretum classes on fruits, garlic, potatoes and pizza.
In her grains class, she demonstrates cooked grains as pie crusts; a soup stew or chowder; a "Four G" entree; a polenta dish; and a dessert, such as grains cooked in fruit juices and served with stewed apricots and Cointreau, the French orange-flavored liqueur.
Her simple, accessible recipes follow for a hearty breakfast of Brown Rice with Orange Juice and Pine Nuts and "Cream" of Mushroom Soup with Wild Rice.
1 cup brown rice (can substitute brown mochi rice, available in health food stores)Wash rice; drain. Place rice in a glass bowl, add the 2 cups water and soak overnight (soaked rice is easier to digest, Koenig says). In the morning, place rice and remaining soaking water in a rice cooker; cook.
2 cups water
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
3 or 4 tablespoons pine nuts
Spoon warm cooked rice into a glass bowl, add orange juice concentrate and toss. Spoon mixture into individual bowls, top each with 1 tablespoon pine nuts and serve as a breakfast food. Makes 3 or 4 servings.
1 cup wild ricePlace rice in a fine-meshed colander and rinse with gold running water. Remove rice to a glass bowl, add the 2 cups water and soak about 8 hours (from morning until time to prepare dinner).
2 cups water
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery or to taste, diced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced in quarters
4 tablespoons garbanzo flour
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups soy milk (or cashew milk, see note)
Garnish: cinnamon, 3 or 4 teaspoons toasted slivered almonds
In a saucepan, heat oil and saute onion and celery 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute a little longer. Add flour and stir to form a roux. Add the 1 cup water and cook, covered, on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring the "custard" occasionally.
Add soy milk until of desired consistency and cook 10 more minutes. Ladle soup into individual bowls and garnish each with cinnamon and 1 teaspoon almonds. Makes 3 or 4 servings.
Note: To make cashew milk, machine blend 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews and 2 cups water; strain and use liquid.
What: Class with Norma Masip Koenig
When: 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday
Where: Lyon Arboretum
Cost: $20.50, includes demonstration and tasting