March 11, 2013 by Meg G.
Last Sunday, Heather and I decided to take a trip to the new Ocean State Job Lot a few towns over. When we lived in Rhode Island, we had one of these little gems right in our neighborhood. If you haven’t been there, I’m not sure you can fully comprehend its magic. I guess you could liken it to a cheaper, less polished Target? Anyway, they sell a surprising amount of organic, whole grain, and otherwise healthy food. This one has a HUGE Bob’s Red Mill selection of grains and beans and soup and bread mixes. So, we stocked up and when I got home I did a little price comparison with what we already had in the pantry. Here’s a few examples:
- $7.99 at Price Chopper and $5.59 at Job Lot
Bob’s Israeil Cous Cous (orange-cran cous cous salad coming soon!):
- $4.29 at Health Food Store and $2.99 at Job Lot
Needless to say, we stocked up on some great pantry items, including wheat berries.
Wheat berries are the entire wheat kernel (minus the hull) and when milled, they produce whole wheat flour. They look a bit like seeds or nuts when they are uncooked, but they plump up nicely and become a chewy grain with lots of texture. In Whole Grains for a New Generation, Liana describes two different varieties: hard red and soft white. The red variety is higher in protein and cooks up firmer than the soft white. She suggests using either of them as a breakfast grain, in soups and stews, cold salads, or as a warm side dish. We haven’t tackled wheat berries over at the FSC Book Club yet, but Heather had her eye on this Paella dish from Post Punk Kitchen, so we jumped ahead and gave them a try.
Paella is a Valencian (Spanish) rice dish that traditionally includes meat, seafood, or some combination of the two. It always includes saffron, which gives it a beautiful golden color. In this veganized version, chickpeas stand in for protein, roasted red peppers and leeks bring some rich flavors, and wheat berries cover for rice. Since we don’t make a habit of buying saffron, we cheated with just a bit of turmeric, which helps with color, but doesn’t offer the same flavor.
This recipe has a few steps, including cooking the wheat berries for about an hour, so plan accordingly. You can certainly prepare the wheat berries and the roasted red peppers the day before. Here goes!
Wheat Berry Paella with Chickpeas and Leeks – adapted from Post Punk Kitchen
- 1 cup wheat berries
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 2 leeks, white and green parts only, sliced into ¼ inch circles and washed well
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 roasted red peppers, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- Lots of fresh black pepper
- 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley, if you prefer)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the Wheat Berries:
- Place them in a 2 quart pot and submerge in water that covers them by 2 extra inches. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Let boil for 2 minutes then turn the heat off completely.
- Keep covered and let steam for another hour. They should be firm and chewy. Drain and set aside.
For the Roasted Red Peppers:
- Preheat your oven (we used the toaster oven!) to 500 degrees, or as high as you can.
- Core and flatten your peppers like photo below.
- Place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and roast until blackened, but not decimated (see photo below).
- Remove from the oven and wrap up the aluminum foil around them. Let sit for at least 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. (This helps to remove the skins.)
- Peel off the skins and dice.
If you have a gas stove or a grill, you can do this right over the flame. We, unfortunately, have an electric stove and range. Wah wah. : (
For the Paella:
- In a large pan over medium heat, sauté leeks in 1 tablespoon olive oil with a pinch of salt for about 7 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- In the same pan over medium low heat, sauté garlic in 2 teaspoons olive oil for about a minute. Add the oregano and thyme and sauté for about 30 more seconds. Add white wine, salt and turmeric and turn the heat up high. Bring to a boil and let boil and reduce for about 3 minutes.
- Lower heat back to medium, add the cooked wheat berries, vegetable broth, tomato paste, roasted red peppers, bay leaves, and fresh black pepper. Let cook for about 15 minutes adding the chickpeas about halfway through. The wheat berries should absorb a lot of the liquid, but it should still be somewhat saucy. Remove bay leaves and taste for salt.
- Mix in the chopped cilantro and lemon juice. Turn off heat and let sit for about 10 minutes to let the flavors marry – it will only get better over time, so plan on some extra flavorful leftovers!
The flavors in this dish are awesome – creamy and rich, but still bright. It smelled amazing and really warmed up the house and our bellies. I think making your own roasted red peppers makes a huge difference over those jarred ones. But if you don’t have time, I’m sure the jar would do. I imagine that you could mess around with the veggies and get a totally different, but equally delicious meal.
As you can see, we didn’t have much broth left, but that didn’t bother me. You can certainly add a bit more veggie broth if you’re the saucy type. ; ) Enjoy!