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“Weird” Grains: Wheat Berries

February 19, 2011

Leaning over to smell them cooking, my husband thought that the wheat berries smelled like “a farm.” No, not quite. They smell like horse feed! The smell went away before they were done, or maybe we just got used to it! In any case, we ended up loving the wheat berry salad in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking.

We received wheat berries in a friend’s CSA share when she was out of town, and they’d been sitting on the shelf ever since. So when I finally got my hands on Super Natural Cooking and saw this recipe among its first 50 pages, I knew where we were headed.

Wheat berries are the wheat kernel in its entirety — bran, germ, and endosperm. The endosperm is the starchy part that ends up in flour. So wheat berries are the quintessential whole grain.

Even after having simmered the wheat berries for a full hour, they are still chewy little suckers. And they are also quite filling. One dish was enough for us each, even though it didn’t look like it would be good for more than just an appetizer. And the dish didn’t suffer from the problem my husband refers to as “diminishing marginal returns,” where the first bite is great but each subsequent bite is less good. This is a very common problem among filling foods.

Heidi’s recipe calls for a vinaigrette of orange zest and juice, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, plus spinach, toasted pine nuts, and feta, plus the wheat berries. It’s a great combination, and will make for awesome leftovers. Pretty nice product to turn out considering the inauspicious beginnings. Better hot than leftover, for sure, but still worth eating in both incarnations.

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