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Seasonal Pantry: Wait, quinoa, I hardly knew you (w/video)

Have you cozied up to quinoa, made friends with farro and embraced black rice?

What about teff, a tiny ancient grain from Ethiopia that has been declared the big new thing for 2014?

“Move over, quinoa,” I've read in several publications, “it is time for teff.”

Farro, too, is apparently yesterday's fodder.

I find these declarations both silly and annoying. The message is that ingredients are merely passing trends and that our discovery of them is a fleeting thing, like hairstyles, hemlines or facial hair.

This may be true in certain restaurants. If you pay attention, you'll notice that ingredients pass like waves through restaurants that are not tied to a culinary tradition. A few years ago, for example, farro was everywhere, to the degree that acclaimed writer Calvin Trillin declared how sick he was of it after once having praised it.

I think differently, most of the time. Over the years, as unfamiliar foods have become available locally, my pantry and my cooking repertoire have expanded. When I was growing up, I'd never heard of polenta, but it's become a longtime staple, since I first ate it in the 1970s. The same is true with farro, bulgur wheat, couscous, black rice, sorrel, pomelos, serranos, quail and dozens of other foods that were, at one time, not on my radar.

I confess that certain foods became so trendy for a time that I have likely eaten my lifetime fill. Sun-dried tomatoes are overdone, as is pesto, largely, I believe, because they became ubiquitous instead of seasonal. Classic pesto is a summer joy; sun-dried tomatoes are a traditional way of preserving tomatoes for winter. It was their year-round usage that made me grow tired of them. But I digress.

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