Everyday Cooking

One Batch of Wheat Berries, Five Dinners

February 25, 2013

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. 

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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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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kerry Grisley
    Kerry Grisley
  • capers
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • fhp
  • dell
I'm a girl with passion for her pantry. Teller of stories, intuitive cook, food maven.


Kerry G. February 21, 2016
I love the templates these ideas provide! I actually had some left over cooked barley, and given its nutty, chewy similarity to wheat berries (farro would be similar), I used that and mixed with some roasted veggies, chopped canned artichokes, fresh thyme, dollop of cottage cheese (OK, OK, I know there are two camps on cottage cheese!... I like the salty creaminess it provides). I also had some leftover drippings/sauce from doing Jamie Oliver's chicken in milk recipe (on this site). Topped with grated cheese and baked at 400 for about 30 min. SO yummy! Thx so much for the inspiration!
capers April 29, 2013
Trying to link to these recipes, but I find no way of getting from here to there...
LeBec F. April 10, 2013
boulder girl,la dom, you are one smart cookie. I love the different cuisines you have tapped for your week's meal(and your chipotle week too) and your understanding of textures and what an important part they play. Of all the recipes, i think the last one, the cheesy casserole, is the most inventive; i am inspired to tinker with this and its melted cheese.

My one suggestion , when you are designing more weeks of recipes, is to keep in mind that Protein, via meat and seafood, is an important ingredient in the meals of many people. (And it seems natural to mention that any leftover bits from your roast chicken-could be used in all your other wheatberry recipes.) Maybe you sometimes leave out seafood from your weeks because you're landlocked in CO, but it would be great for you to include a seafood dish in all your 'week of recipes'features. The Boston Globe food section has a feature like this one but called Sunday Night (and into the week)but their creations are rather boring and alway involve throwing something over pasta....They could learn aLOT from you!Thanks so much for the inspiration!
LeBec F. April 10, 2013
jess, sorry for my misunderstanding about this Halfway to Dinner feature. Because i was also impressed by the chipotle feature of this week, i thought you had done that as well! I think that's called a back-handed compliment! Hope to see you featured here often.
Nancy P. May 9, 2013
When you combine vegetables and whole grains you get a complete protein (all 9 amino acids).
fhp March 4, 2013
It is my understanding that wheat-berries and farro are not the same although they are similar in appearance. Farro is ember wheat and has a much shorter cooking time.
dell March 4, 2013
Stir Fry
Deborah V. March 3, 2013
la D. March 4, 2013
Glad you liked it, Deborah Valentine!
Ascender March 3, 2013
I've been cooking up a big pot of whole grains on the weekends to use through the week for years. I choose a different grain each week. Hulled barley is also wonderfully chewy and versatile.

Don't forget about using it for breakfast porridge. Warm the grain with some milk, sprinkle with toasted nuts and fresh or dried fruit and eat.
la D. March 4, 2013
Great suggestions, Ascender!
pam60 March 3, 2013
use a pressure cooker...no need to presoak beans or grains.
la D. March 4, 2013
A pressure cooker is great for saving time, Pam60. :)
Mianna March 3, 2013
Yummy suggestions for farro. Thank you for the inspiration - deciding between the salad and the cheesy casserole. Winter comfort dish or hoping for spring!
la D. March 4, 2013
I'm glad you found a couple of ideas to try, Mianna!
Sigita March 3, 2013
Fantastic suggestions- especially for my vegetarian daughter at college.....
la D. March 4, 2013
Thanks Sigita!
Tori H. February 27, 2013
Love Jess's photography and writing. More from Jess please!
la D. February 27, 2013
Thank you Tori. You are too kind.
Fairmount_market February 25, 2013
Thanks so much for all these ideas. The wheat berry stuffing sounds delicious!
la D. February 26, 2013
I'm glad you enjoyed the post Fairmount_market!
Konrad Y. February 25, 2013
Great post
la D. February 25, 2013
Thank you Konrad!
Kitchen B. February 25, 2013
The stuffed chicken looks and sounds delicious- wholesome, and full of rich, deep flavours. What a feast!
la D. February 25, 2013
It is so good Kitchen Butterfly! :)
AntoniaJames February 25, 2013
Wonderful post! So many good ideas here. Thanks so much for sharing them with us. ;o)
la D. February 25, 2013
Thanks Antonia!
AntoniaJames February 25, 2013
We'll be enjoying that Hearty Vegetable Soup within the next few days. What a great looking recipe -- perfect for the chilly evenings here! Plan to make it vegan with a fragrant kombu and shitake stock. Looking forward to it. ;o)
la D. February 25, 2013
That sounds delicious. The recipe is open to endless variation. Cheers!