Wheat berries have become part of my regular repertoire when I cook at Pie Ranch. This ranch is named for its layout that is shaped in two pie slices which they call the “upper slice” and the “lower slice” and also because they grow wheat and mill it on site. One of the great benefits or this crop is of course the wheat berry itself which has a great nutty flavor and is high in fiber and protein.
I have used wheat berries in tons of ways: creamy ‘risotto’, garnish for salads and soups, baked into bread, and as a substitute for rice. Even when fully cooked the wheatberry will not be soft like rice, it has a slight crunch when you bite into it which I like.
Cooking wheatberries is similar to cooking wild rice, except I use a ratio of 1:3 wheat berry to cooking liquid (water or stock). And I don’t worry too much about steaming the berry, instead I just let them simmer until al dente – about 30 minutes.
I have the benefit of using a huge wood fire oven at Pie Ranch but this recipe works equally well in a regular oven minus, of course, that great smokiness.
- 2 medium fennel bulbs, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 1 bunch (4 to 5) large white spring onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 4 cloves garlic in the skin
- 5 strips of Applewood thick cut bacon
- 2 cups wheat berries
- 6 cups chicken stock (or water or veg stock)
- 4 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary tied together with kitchen twine
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
In a large pot add wheat berries and cover with lightly chicken stock, bring to a boil, add the herbs tied in kitchen string, and then turn down the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until done.
Preheat oven to 425˚F. In a shallow baking toss whole garlic cloves, onions, fennel and chopped bacon with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Roast until bacon is cooked and vegetables are browned and caramelized, stirring occasionally – about 15 to 20 minutes.
When wheamtberries are cooked, drain and season with salt if needed. Squeeze roasted garlic out of its skin, smash and mix in with the wheat berries. Toss the caramelized vegetables and bacon with the white wine vinegar and spoon over wheat berries.