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One Batch of Wheat Berries, Five Dinners

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Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way. 

Today: Jessica O'Toole of La Domestique invites wheat berries to dinner every night of the week. 

Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that lead to revelations in the kitchen. For me and wheat berries, it all began when I came across the wise words of Tamar Adler in Food & Wine Magazine: “It’s no harder to make a lot of farro than a little.” This simple truth changed my perception of slow-cooking grains. 

I’ve always loved wheat berries for their nutty flavor and pleasant chew, but I never planned ahead to allow for overnight soaking and the long cooking times this grain requires -- even pre-soaked wheat berries need to boil anywhere from 40 to 90 minutes. Enter: the idea to simmer a big pot on the weekend and toss it into meals throughout the week. 

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Fennel and Bell Pepper
Use your pantry to make a pretty, filling salad. Mix chopped, roasted red bell peppers, canned white beans, tangy capers, and creamy feta cheese with cooked wheat berries. Add fennel for crunch, parsley for freshness, and enjoy a sustaining supper. (Hint: take the leftovers to work the next day -- they’ll be even better.) Get the full recipe below

Hearty Vegetable Soup with Wheat Berries
Inspired by an old favorite, Ribollita, this soup exchanges the bread for wheat berries, making it easier to prepare ahead of time and reheat -- or even freeze for another night. Begin with a sofrito, then add kale, mushrooms, cannellini beans, and a large can of peeled tomatoes. The sofrito’s red pepper flakes and thyme leaves will dial up the flavor. 


Wheat Berry Stuffing with Mushrooms, Raisins, and Rosemary
Roasted chicken makes a regular appearance on our dinner table, and stuffing the bird makes the meal feel a little more special. Keep it simple with just a handful of ingredients: sauté mushrooms and a shallot in a skillet until tender, then toss into a bowl with wheat berries, raisins, and a generous helping of fresh rosemary. Allow the mixture to cool completely before stuffing the chicken (place any extra stuffing underneath the bird). Your bird will take a bit longer to cook, but it’ll be worth the wait -- as it roasts, all of its flavorful juices seep down into the stuffing. 

Wheat Berry Stir Fry
Don’t knock this until you try it: wheat berries have enough flavor and texture to beautifully match the depth of Asian flavors like soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. I like to stir fry each ingredient separately in a very hot wok or skillet, and then combine them all at the end with my flavorings over a few seconds of high heat. Snow peas, broccoli, scallions, and mushrooms all make regular appearances in my stir fries. 

Cheesy Wheat Berry Casserole with Olives, Spinach, and Braised Artichokes
For this warming casserole, I trim the artichokes and braise them in the oven with a little stock until tender, while spinach leaves go into a skillet with a little garlic and olive oil until just wilted. Transfer both vegetables into a small casserole dish with a handful of olives, wheat berries, and fresh thyme leaves. Add a splash of the artichoke broth to keep it all moist, and bake in a 425° F oven until warmed through. Sprinkle the casserole with your favorite melting cheese, and brown it under the broiler for a minute or so. Bet you never thought wheat berries could be comforting.

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Fennel and Bell Pepper

Serves 6 to 8 -- 4 if you're hungry. 

1 cup uncooked wheat berries, soaked overnight
1 bulb of fennel
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
15 ounces cannellini beans
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by Jessica O'Toole

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Tags: Soup, Weeknight Cooking, Everyday Cooking, Halfway To Dinner