Wheat Berries for Breakfast

January 15, 2013 § 3 Comments

Wheat berries. Never heard of them? Neither had I, until I came across them as an ingredient in a course-grained whole wheat bread recipe (more on that bread another day). And now, they’re a special breakfast treat.

Wheat berries with raisins, slivered almonds and apple cider.

Wheat berries with raisins, slivered almonds and apple cider.

How did they go from bread to breakfast? When I spotted them in the Amy’s Bread cookbook recipe I read up a bit on this whole grain. According to Wikipedia, “wheat berry” is just another term for the whole wheat kernel. Silly me, I thought they looked familiar. As a farm kid, I had wheat kernels end up in pant cuffs, socks and occasionally other locations on my person after a day on the wheat combine. If milled instead of left whole, the wheat berries become wheat flour. And as we know, grains left whole are good for you because none of the nutrients are processed out of the grain. Keeping it whole leaves all that good-for-you protein, fiber and iron (and I’m sure other good things) right in that wheat berry for your health and flavor enjoyment.

The whole wheat berry as an ingredient in bread gives the bread some chewy texture—something to bite into other than just the bread.  They’re also a bit sweet and nutty in flavor—a great thing when used not just in breads, but also when added to salad greens or made into a grain-based dish.

My course-grained bread recipe called for just a 1/2 cup of cooked wheat berries with a half-cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Wanting to have some extra on hand, I added one cup of uncooked berries  to about 2.5-3 cups boiling water, then let it simmer, mostly covered, for about 50 minutes. The result was about 2 cups of plump wheat berries and surprisingly just enough liquid.

The berries that didn’t make it into the bread made it into my breakfast bowl. Taking a cue from my typical steel-cut oats preparation, these berries received some raisins (highly recommend the jumbo raisin mix from Trader Joe’s) and slivered almonds. And to plump up the raisins while warming in the microwave, I added enough apple cider to come nearly to the surface of the wheat berries. Soul-satisfyingly delicious. And it filled my belly. I even slurped from last juices from the bowl.

I would love to try wheat berries in a savory application and have seen a recipe or two pairing them with mushrooms. If you have any recommendations—either savory or sweet—please leave me a comment below.

And now that I know my family has a barn full of these wheat berries at home, I think I’ll bring home a great big bag of them next time I visit.

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Steel-Cut Oats

February 11, 2011 § 3 Comments

Where have you been all my life, steel-cut oats?

Ten years ago, I don’t believe I had ever eaten oatmeal. Maybe I had had one of those wimpy packet of instant oatmeal, if you want to call that oatmeal. Mom had a container of Quaker Oast around the house, but it was for cookies only, not breakfast. So, my uneducated and untested opinion of oatmeal was that its gloppiness reflected its taste and I wanted nothing to do with it.

Then Jennifer came along and made me the world’s best oatmeal. It wasn’t the instant stuff, and it wasn’t the quick oats, I don’t think. It was rolled oats, for sure, with that familiar flattened, flake-like appearance. Boil, stir, simmer, toss in some raisins for a minute and Whammo! Five minutes later there’s a tasty breakfast. With a pour of maple syrup and a smattering of slivered almonds on top, of course. Mmmm … nice and hearty. For the most part, I leave the oatmeal making to Jennifer. She’s good at it. It’s her job.

steel-cut oats

Steel-cut oats—they actually look like oats!

One day on a visit to New York, our friend Bernadett raved about the flavor of steel-cut oats. Now that’s a whole other animal, for sure, steel-cut oats. That familiar flaky oat appearance? Not happenin’ with steel-cut oats. When you look at rolled oats, you can’t really get a good idea of what that flake was previously. Not really. It is a smushed something. But when you look at steel-cut oats, its “grain-ness” just jumps right out at you. It looks like the oats we used to grow back on the farm—just chopped crosswise into smaller pieces. Cooking time—well, let’s say it’s not a breakfast food appropriate for a gotta-get-out-the-door morning.

Thanks to my baking of Flour’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and the depletion of our rolled oats, we found ourselves in front of the bulk bins at Whole Foods. Steel-cut oats in a bin to the left. Rolled oats in a bin to the right. We had experience with rolled. We knew we liked rolled. But we heard great things about steel cut. Plus, they were on sale. Steel-cut, it is.

Recipe (for 2)

  1. Put a scant 2 cups water in a small 2-qt. pot. Add a pinch of kosher salt. Heat on high until boiling.
  2. Stir in a generous 1 cup of steel-cut oats. IMMEDIATELY turn heat down as low as it can go. Cover.
  3. Set timer for 15 minutes. And go write your morning blog post.
  4. When timer goes off, stir in a handful of raisins. Cover. Set timer for 5 minutes.
  5. Divide into two bowls. Top with your favorite stuff. Enjoy.

Mmmmm ... breakfast.

*IMPORTANT NOTE! Jennifer just told me to leave the lid slightly ajar. This way we don’t get those flair-ups that result in oatmeal goo dripping down the pot and onto the stovetop that she just cleaned.

Don’t expect your typical oatmeal experience. Like I said before, this is a whole other animal. It’s more grainy. More chewy. More nutty. Less gooey. Maybe there’s less of a viscous texture because the oat hasn’t been smushed and there is less surface area. I dunno. But I do know that I prefer it.

Nutrition? Is it better for you? More nutritious? Maybe. Or maybe it’s the same. Honestly, I don’t really care about the details so much. I do know it’s oats, and it’s a whole grain, and it’s good for you. And, it’s filling.

Now I can be like my mom and keep that container of rolled oats exclusively for the cookies.

Fridge-tata: Going recipe-less with breakfast

January 18, 2011 § 3 Comments

Long weekend away in a ski house with friends + cooking in + stuffed refrigerator = “fridge-tata”

If you’re not an egg lover or have not gone out to for brunch in 15 years and aren’t familiar with a frittata, it’s the Italian take on the classic French omelette: Beaten eggs in a hot skillet, but with the fixins in them and presented flat, not folded. And finished off in the oven. Served in slices. Come to think of it, it’s like a slice of egg cake. Filled with sausage or salmon, chicken or chopped tomatoes, their many formulations stuff recipe sites and cookbooks.

I’m telling you now, throw out the recipes and create your own on auto-pilot. It’s as easy as opening your refrigerator.

We’ve been members of a gay ski house up in Vermont for going on eight years now. On any given fall or winter weekend, the house is filled with boys from NYC and Boston, boyfriends flying in from elsewhere and occasionally a few girls. There can be up to 12 or 14 folks sitting around the dinner table. The New York boys have a reputation for preparing over-the-tops meals – usually creatively fueled with several apre-ski cocktails. Caviar shows up on the menu several times a ski season.

At least one breakfast each weekend is something I’ve dubbed a “fridge-tata.” While I can take credit for the name, I can’t take credit for the process. That would go to the likes of Hal and Steve. They stare into the open fridge, assess the leftovers, and pull out the fridge-tata’s fillings. Chicken and green beans? Tuna and asparagus? As long as they have six or more eggs and that huge skillet (it must be 16 inches), they can create a breakfast fortified enough to fuel a day of downhill.

 

Personal-Sized Fridge-tata

On Sunday, I created my own single-serving fridge-tata for a post-snowshoeing snack.

I used only a portion of these leftovers for my personal-sized fridge-tata

  • leftovers of salmon, rice (created from some seasoned packet and a half can of chopped tomatoes) and beans
  • two eggs, beaten with salt and pepper and a touch of milk
  • mango key-lime salsa to taste

-Using a small, 8-in. skillet set on medium, I heated up the rice and beans. Meanwhile, I whisked up my eggs with salt and pepper.

-After beans and rice formed a bit of a crust on the bottom, I broke it up a bit and added my little hunk of leftover salmon. I waited because I didn’t want the salmon to be cooked to much more than it already had been.

-With the salmon in there for about 30 seconds, I added the eggs and turned the heat down to medium low.

-I let the eggs set a bit – enough so that I could lift the sides with a spatula. This took only two to three minutes.

fridge-tata setting up

The eggs need to set up a bit

-The top of the fridge-tata needed to set, so I put a lid over the skillet for a minute or two.

-Serve with salsa.

The finished fridge-tata

I could have used another egg or two to make the fridge-tata thicker. But then it would have been too much for me to finish. Had I cooked a more massive fridge-tata in that larger 16-in. skillet, I would have used way more eggs – probably eight or more. And, I would have cooked it on the stovetop until the eggs set up, covered it and set it on medium low for maybe 14-15 minutes, and then put it under the broiler for a minute or two to make sure the top was crisp.

It’s not the gourmety-est dish. But it’s the perfect way to deal with leftovers when roughing it in a ski house.

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