Thanks to a recent pantry-shopping challenge from fellow food blogger TW Barritt of Culinary Types, I've fallen in love with Kamut®.
Here are ten things I know about this grain (you'll be glad to know them, too):
- Related to both durum wheat and spelt, Kamut is pronounced kuh MOOT, which rhymes with Smoot and snoot, though it's not the least bit snooty.
- According to the Kamut Association of North America, in 1949 an American airman in Portugal received 36 kernels of giant wheat from a friend who claimed to have taken them from a stone box in a tomb in Egypt. He mailed them to his father, a Montana wheat farmer, who grew a small crop, dubbed it "King Tut's Wheat", and sold the grain as a novelty at a local fair. A few farmers tried to grow it, but by the late 1960s the novelty wore off, and this hard-to-grow wheat was all but forgotten. In 1977, T. Mack Quinn, another Montana wheat farmer, discovered one remaining jar of seeds and with his son, Bob, a plant biochemist, spent the next decade propagating those original kernels. They trademarked the cultivar in 1990 and named it Kamut®, an ancient Egyptian word meaning "soul of the Earth".
- It tastes like wheat -- a buttery and nutty wheat. Think of a piece of whole wheat bread slathered with sweet butter, and you'll get the idea. Dishes made with Kamut often require less sugar to balance the flavor than those made with other grains.
- Kamut kernels are elongated and nearly twice the size of conventional wheat kernels, requiring more time to soften than other durum wheat, so Kamut is perfect for recipes made in the slow cooker or pressure cooker. I use my rice cooker, which cooks one cup of Kamut in 20 minutes.
- You can purchase Kamut in several different forms in addition to kernels. Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills are two widely-distributed brands of Kamut flour (I find both at Job Lot, Rhode Island's favorite super-discount store). Eden Foods sells Kamut flakes; DiCecco makes Kamut pasta.
- Speaking of which, Kamut pasta has earned the Low Glycemic Seal of Approval from the Glycemic Research Institute.
- Kamut is a low-yield crop that thrives only in Montana and North Dakota, and in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. Kamut dislikes both humidity and soil rich in nutrients, yet the grain itself is packed with nutrients -- 40 percent higher in protein, and with more vitamins, than other wheat varieties.
- Because its protein is easier to digest, many people with sensitivity to wheat find that they can eat Kamut. (Please check with your doctor if you have allergies or sensitivities to wheat. Kamut does contain gluten.)
- Like all grains, Kamut might turn rancid if not stored properly. Transfer it to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, and keep it in a dark part of your pantry, or in the freezer. Replace after three months if stored at room temperature, after six months if frozen.
- Substitute Kamut for barley, fregola sarda, couscous, orzo or rice. Try it in pilafs, soups, or chili. How about oven-baked zucchini filled with kamut, olives, thyme and parsley? Or wilted spinach salad with kamut and vegetables? Or a salad with orange, sun-dried tomatoes and chile? Or kamut, lentil and chickpea soup? Or a hearty breakfast of cream of kamut cereal?
Warm salad of Kamut, cranberries and feta
A sweet-tart salad with "tooth", this is a great side dish for a Friday night roast chicken or grilled lamb, or perfect for a picnic or potluck. And, as pomegranates are an aphrodisiac, this might be a good dish to try on Valentine's Day. Serves 6.
1 cup Kamut®
4 cups water
3 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp agave nectar
4 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
1 cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Measure, then rinse, the Kamut. Place in a rice cooker with 4 cups of water, and set to cook. Or, place in a saucepan, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, checking frequently, until it tastes chewy but cooked all the way through.
While the grain is cooking, combine the pomegranate molasses, agave and olive oil in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add salt and pepper to taste. Shake the jar to emulsify the dressing, and set aside.
When the Kamut is cooked (it will be chewy, not mushy), drain and add it to a mixing bowl with the cucumber, cranberries, and dressing. Toss well to combine. At the last moment before serving, add the cheese, toss lightly, and serve.
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