Wednesday, September 22, 2010
2 Recipe #175: Wheatberry & Chía Pilaf with Seasonal Vegetables & Fresh Basil
Sometimes, the best way to get inspiration for new recipes is to be creative with what you already have in the fridge, versus going out to get more ingredients. Making the most of what you already have in your kitchen can lead to some pretty innovative creations, because, when push comes to shove, the mind usually tends to work better with limitations that provide a framework, versus nebulous & nonspecific ponderings of the eternal question, "Gee, what can I make for dinner?" :-D
|"Gee, what do I make for dinner tonight?" ;)|
Plus, I'd been wanting to create some new recipes using wheatberries & chía for a while now, but just needed the proper inspiration. I know there are lots of people who have never cooked or baked with either before, and so, whenever I mention them to people, I get a lot of quizzical looks, as well as some rather interesting questions and comments. ;) One of the most popular questions is "What the heck are these things anyhow?" Haha.
many different varieties: The array of different species cultivated in the US are durum, hard red spring, hard red winter, soft red winter, hard white, soft white, all of which have slightly different sizes, texture, flavors, & uses.
Did you know that all wheat products are actually made from wheatberries, including both white & whole wheat flour? More importantly, these crunchy little seeds are exceptionally healthy for you. First of all, they are unprocessed whole grain kernels, so their nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc.) remain intact, unlike flour or other processed wheat products, which lose much of their nutritional content after processing. Wheatberries contain all 3 parts of the grain - the bran, germ, & starchy endosperm. Only the hull, i.e., the inedible outer layer of the grain, has been removed. They are classed as a "superfood."
As for nutritional content, they are rich in vitamins A, B (i.e., B-complex vitamins), C, & E, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium. They are also low in sodium & fat (3 mg. & 0.5 g. respectively, per 1/2 cup serving), and have zero cholesterol. (Of course, not surprisingly, wheatberries do contain gluten, so they're not suitable for people with wheat allergies or celiac disease.) Like chía, they are an excellent source of protein, carbs, & dietary fiber. Both grains are also low in calories: Wheatberries have 111 calories per 1/2 c. serving, while chía has 145 calories per 2 Tbsp. (These are typical serving amounts, & are also used in the below recipe, if you'd like to keep tabs on the amount of calories you'll be consuming in the below dish.)
Both chía & wheatberries have been used for weight management (in combination with a healthy, balanced diet) & lowering the risk of cardiovascular problems (i.e., heart disease, heart attack, stroke, etc.). Wheatberries also lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes & certain types of cancer: They contain lignans, phytochemicals that are thought to guard against breast & prostate cancer.
Like wheatberries, chía is a whole (i.e., unprocessed), raw food, but unlike wheatberries, it's gluten-free, which, of course, is good news for those with wheat allergies or celiac disease. Another benefit of chía is that it can be eaten whole & uncooked with very little preparation, and due to its high level of antioxidants, can be stored for a very long time without spoiling. It's a hydrophilic colloid that's easily digestible, and thus, is good for the digestive system. It's also insoluble (i.e., it won't dissolve in water), and yet, can absorb up to 12 times its weight in water! So, it definitely needs to be soaked before it's consumed; otherwise it can actually dehydrate the body, leaching water from the stomach & intestinal tract. However, when added to water, it can aid in hydration, which is why it's often used by athletes to naturally enhance their performance. Runners often add chía to their drinks during long distance training runs & events, not only for hydration benefits, but also to provide extra energy (1 Tbsp. is said to provide 24 hours worth of energy!), bolster endurance, and prevent cramping.
|What chía looks like in its gelled form.|
Both require a little advance preparation: Wheatberries can either be soaked overnight in water or boiled in water for about an hour (!), in order to soften the kernels enough for cooking. Chía should be soaked for 4-5 minutes in 9 times the amount of chía used. So, for example, use 9 Tbsp. water for every 1 Tbsp. chía. Also, make sure you stir it while it's gelling, so that it doesn't clump.
OK, enough exposition. Onto the recipe!
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (about 2 large cloves)
1 c. red-skinned potato, unpeeled, washed, scrubbed, & diced (about 1 small potato)
1 large fresh bay leaf
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. dried wheatberries, rinsed & soaked in boiling hot water overnight & then drained (makes about 1 c. cooked)
1/2 c. baby carrots, sliced crosswise into small rounds (about 8 medium-sized baby carrots)
1/2 (heaping) c. red bell pepper, diced
1/8 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. ground sage
1 Tbsp. ground sumac
1 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (stir in at the end)
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, julienned
Directions: In a large (12-13") sauté pan, sauté onions, garlic, potatoes, & bay leaf in olive oil & butter for 5-7 minutes on medium low heat. Season with salt to reduce faster. (Tip: When adding salt, sprinkle from high above to ensure a more even distribution.) Next, turn up heat to medium-low & add the wheatberries, stirring continually for about 1-2 minutes. Watch pan carefully so wheatberries don't brown or burn. (This step is particularly important, as it cooks off the wheatberries's starchy coating & prevents the grains from getting sticky and mushy when the liquid ingredients are added. The wheatberries should be slightly crispy, but not browned.) Next add carrots, red peppers, & all of the remaining dried spices, and deglaze with white wine, stirring constantly, until liquid has been absorbed. (If the liquid cooks down too quickly, you can always add the optional 1/2 c. water, as specified above.) While reducing, add chía seeds in with about 1-2 minutes of cooking to go. When ready, remove from heat & discard bay leaf. Then stir in lemon juice, & garnish with parsley & basil. Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 3-4 as a main course, or 6-8 as a side dish.
Chef's Notes: The addition of ground sumac is very important to the flavor of this dish; it just won't taste the same without it, so it's best not to omit it. Sumac can be found at Mediterranean markets or online at my Amazon store. :) Also, you can pick up both chía and wheatberries there as well at a very reasonable price, due to the fact that many, if not most, of these online merchants have no storefront & thus no overhead costs, which allows them to offer products at much lower prices! -- You'll find these foods under the "Favorite Gourmet Groceries" category of my online store.
I prefer to use soft white wheatberries in the above recipe, which has a milder flavor & seems to soak up water more quickly.
Please note: The high fiber content of this dish makes it VERY filling. Trust me when I say that a little goes a long way. You won't believe how full you'll get on a portion that might seem a lot smaller than what you're normally accustomed to eating. Don't let your eyes trick you. Wait 20 minutes after eating a small bit, and you'll see what I mean. :)
Alternate Preparations: To make this recipe vegan, simply omit the butter.