Friday, July 24, 2009

Orange Wheat Berries with Pecans and Cranberries

I love bread!  I love pasta!  I love crackers!  But I don’t like the way they make me feel.  Besides the feeling of guilt, I feel bloated.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with whole grains so I can still satisfy the carbohydrate craving with none of the guilt.

First, it was brown rice and wild rice.  Then millet and quinoa.  Now, it’s wheat berries.  They’re cheap and easy to cook, and they’re really good for you.  Their firm nutty texture goes well with all kinds of veggies and make an interesting meal that will keep you satisfied for hours, and, to top it off, they make great leftovers.   Whenever I cook with wheat berries I make extra to make different variations of this salad, swapping out the pecans and cranberries for almonds and dried apricots, or butternut squash and chopped zucchini for the bells and carrots.  The choices are endless. 

Orange Wheat Berries with Pecans and Cranberries

wheat berries:

1 cup wheat berries


veggie mixture:

1T olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

a large handful of raw pecans, coarsely chopped

a large handful of dried cranberries

about 1t dried basil

1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

salt and pepper, to taste


2 oranges, peeled and segmented (save all the juice for dressing)

2T balsamic vinegar

2-4T veg stock

1T of Dijon mustard

salt and pepper, to taste

Preparing and cooking the wheat berries:

So, the wheat berries are slightly more labor intensive than, let’s say, white rice, but well worth the effort.  Put the 1 cup of wheat berries in a bowl and cover about 1-2 inches with boiling water.  Cover let sit for 1 hour.  After soaking, bring 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add drained wheat berries.  Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 55-60 minutes.  There may still be some water left over in the pot.  That’s OK.  Just drain them and set aside on the counter to cool a bit. 

About the veggies:  

You’ll want to make sure they are all cut up to be the same size, about 1/4" to 1/2".  In a large skillet, sauté the onion and carrots in the olive oil.  After a few minutes, add the bell peppers, pecans, cranberries, dried basil, and rosemary.  If veggies become too dry, add a little water or veg stock to loosen up and prevent burning.  Salt and pepper, to taste.  

For the vinaigrette:

You need orange segments.  I’m assuming you know how to do this.  Do it over a bowl to catch the juice and then squeeze all the excess juice from the leftovers.  Cut the orange segments in half and add to the veggie mixture.  Add the balsamic vinegar, veg stock, and Dijon mustard to the OJ and whisk.  The mustard will thicken the dressing and give it a nice tangy flavor that goes well with the sweet orange juice.  Salt and pepper to taste.  If it’s too vinegary or sweet, just adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.

Now toss the veggies with the wheat berries and vinaigrette.  Taste to check.  If it’s a bit dry, add more veg stock.

So, there you have it.  This is a delicious meal and can be eaten at room temperature or cold right out of the fridge.  Awesome for brown-bag lunches, but take extra because your coworkers will want some! 


A little note on tasting your food:  

Always taste your food during the cooking process.  Check to see if veggies are tender enough, sauces are flavorful enough, spices are hot enough.  I love to see someone lap up one of my meals without having to douse it with salt.  If it’s flavored well with herbs, you don’t need that much salt.  To me, that’s a successful meal.  Enjoy!!

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