Whole grains, like wheat berries, may take longer to cook, but you can cut down cook time by soaking grains overnight—and by making a large enough batch so that you can eat throughout the week.
The Greenmarket in NYC started an initiative to display and sell grains that have been grown and milled in the Northeast, including many beautiful whole grains, which are far healthier for you, since true whole grains include the bran, germ, and endosperm. (It's the bran and the germ that have most of the health-promoting benefits of a grain). That's why "refined" grains are not so healthy (see sugardetox.me for more info if you're curious about that!)
The map below indicates where some of our local and regional grains are coming from, and luckily for us New Yorkers, we can get our grains from the greenmarket, or we can also get them in bulk at many stores, including Whole Foods, food coops, natural food centers, and more. I prefer to bulk buy, largely because it allows me to cut down on packaging, plus I store my grains in my refrigerator in mason jars anyway.
I hadn't cooked with wheat berries very much before, so I wanted to do a filling and flavorful fall dish that would bring in the best of the season's local ingredients. Each of the ingredients I would be using are flavorful in and of themselves—the bitter bite of the Swiss chard, the nutty flavors of the chickpea and wheat berries, the sweetness of butternut squash...Baking, cooking, and adding spice and herbs would only be used to accentuate those flavors. Here's what I did:
Wheat berry, chard, chickpea and butternut squash bowl
50 minutes | 4 servings | vegan
- 1 cup wheat berries, soaked overnight
- 3 cups homemade vegetable broth
- 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained (15.5-16 oz)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon nigella
- pinch cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon oregano leaves
- 1 shallot, peeled and diced
- 1/2 bunch Swiss chard, washed and chopped
- cilantro or flat-leaf parsley as garnish
- crushed walnuts or almonds as topping
- Soak your wheat berries overnight. Drain that water. Add wheat berries to a medium saucepan with three cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover the pot for around 30 minutes. Check the texture and if need be, simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
- While wheat berries are simmering, preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss your butternut squash and chickpeas with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt, cinnamon, nigella, and oregano. Bake in oven for around 30 minutes, or until chickpeas and butternut squash are lightly browned.
- Sauté the shallots with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick skillet for 2 minutes over medium heat or until slightly fragrant. Add the Swiss chard and sauté for another 3-5 minutes. Stir and cover to steam.
- Test the texture of the wheat berries. They should be slightly chewy. Drain any excess liquid and sprinkle with a little bit of salt and the remainder of olive oil. Add the butternut squash and chickpea mix, and then add the shallots and chard. Mix well.
- Place in serving bowls and add chopped nuts and parsley or cilantro as a topper. 🌿