We usually think of grains as stick-to-your-ribs winter fare, but some of them can make good summer foods, too.
Each and every food affects your metabolism according to its chemical composition, not its serving temperature. Some, the ones Ayurveda and Chinese medicine call hot, speed up your metabolic rate, increase your body temperature. Exhibit A: hot chilies. On the other hand, cold foods do just the opposite. They lower your metabolic rate, decrease your body temperature. Examples? Raw green salads and cucumber. If you’d like to explore this notion of hot and cold a bit more, Yoga Journal has some good background on the idea.
Grains, though, are pretty mild foods, and don’t have an extreme effect on your metabolism. Corn, while not a 4 alarm fire like cayenne, is considered to be on the slightly hot side of the equation, so curtail your corn during the hot summer (the grain, not the vegetable). Cooler grains – including oats, rice and wheat – are appropriate for summer. Adding cooling herbs (mint, licorice) and condiments (ghee, raw sugar) to the grains will balance them even further for the hot weather.
Mung beans are nutritious, cooling sources of protein. Add cooling rice and you’ve got a good combination for a summer meal. I like this classic version, posted at BigOven. In fact, in my house, we’ve eaten this recipe a couple of times each week for thirty years. For the summer season, you could prepare a delicious mung bean and rice version with cooling spices and additions such as coconut, cilantro, dates and sprouts.
In summer, we want to keep cool, so it’s good to eat grains at room temperature. Grain salads are just the thing. Think tabouleh, the popular Lebanese grain salad made from cooling cracked wheat and mint.
And let’s not leave out quinoa, the legendary grain of the Incas. This protein rich grain is, unlike most other grains, not the seed of a grass plant. Instead, it’s the seed of the strangely named goosefoot plant. It’s gluten free, so it’s developing a big following among nutrition aficionados.
Quinoa makes a great summer grain salad. The folks from the vegetarian food section of about.com have a quick and easy, but tasty, recipe for a healthy quinoa salad that’s just right for this hot weather.
Do you have any favorite grains or recipes for the hot summer season?