Saturday, March 7, 2009

Wheatberries and Rice with Fragrant Spices

Never cooked or eaten wheatberries before? This is a great recipe for giving them a try. I make this a side dish for pork -- you saw it in the last post --and I haven't found anyone who doesn't like it yet, even kids. At first, I couldn't find wheatberries in our grocery store, then I looked in the bulk bins in the organic section. I buy just enough to make the recipe -- and it's usually under 50 cents.

Wheatberries (and Rice) with Fragrant Spices, Currants & Almonds
Torn From Fine Cooking (maybe 2002?), article by Joyce Goldstein, the former chef-owner of Square One in San Francisco
1/2 cup wheatberries, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
2 T. olive oil or unsalted butter (I use olive oil)
1/2 medium onion, chopped into medium dice (I use a whole onion)
4 scallions(white and light green parts only), chopped (I skip this)
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. ground cinnamon; more to taste
1/2 cup basmati or other long-grain white rice
1/3 cup dried currants or coarsely chopped raisins (it's worth buying the currants)
3/4 cup homemade or low-salt canned chicken or vegetable broth(I used chicken or water)
1 1/2 oz. (1/3 cup) slivered almonds, toasted
2 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 T. grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper

Drain the wheatberries. In a small saucepan, bring the wheatberries and 3 cups salted water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until tender but pleasantly chewy, 25 to 50 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the oil or butter in a small saucepan over medium low. Add the onion and scallions, cook until tender and translucent, about 7 mins. Stir in the allspice, cinnamon, and rice, cook until the spices are fragrant, 1 to 3 minutes and then add the currants or raisins, the broth, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the liquid is just absorbed and the rice is tender, 12 to 15 mins.
Meanwhile, toast the sliced almonds.In a bowl, combine the wheatberries, rice mixture, and toasted almonds. Stir in the parsley and lemon zest and adjust the salt, pepper, and cinnamon to taste.
The result is a wonderful mixture of savory-ness --- the nutty wheatberries; the base of the rice and the onions; the crunchy almonds; the sweet, but not too sweet, currants; the fragrance of the cinnamon and allspice; and, the brightness of the lemon zest and parsley. (This time I forgot to get parsley and now I know it makes a difference.)
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish or makes 4 cups of stuffing.

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