Monday, January 9, 2012

Wheat Berry, Black Bean, and Vegetable Stew

Hearty, one-pot dishes are pretty much the perfect meal; packed with grains and veggies, and piping hot off the stove, I can think of no better meal to keep your immune system strong all winter.  This particular dish has superstars like wheat berries, black soy beans, and cremini mushrooms.  For other one-pot entree ideas, see my posts for Tempeh and Wild Mushroom Fricassee or Asian Root Vegetable Stew. 

  • 1 cup uncooked wheat berries
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrot
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups chopped Savoy cabbage*
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) undrained and chopped can whole tomatoes**
  • 1 (15-ounce) drained can black soy beans***
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Combine the wheat berries and 2 cups hot water in a bowl; let stand for 1 hour.  Drain through a sieve over a bowl, and reserve 1 and 1/2 cups of the soaking liquid; set aside.

2. Combine the wheat berries in a Dutch oven with 4 cups water and the sea salt. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes; remove the wheat berry mixture from the pan and set aside.

Note: I found this step to be, quite simply, annoying.  It is very hard to remove the hot water and all those tiny grains of wheat berries to another bowl - as evinced by the rogue wheat berries still in the pan while I sauteed the onions in the next step - in particular because my Le Creuset Dutch oven is heavy and hard to upend over another bowl.  Although I know it defeats the purpose of a "one pot meal," next time I would simmer the wheat berries in a separate pan, and add to the stew as directed below.

Behold the rogue wheat berries:

3. After removing the wheat berry mixture, heat the olive oil in the pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the cremini mushrooms, celery, carrot, and rosemary; saute for 5 minutes.

4. Return the wheat berry mixture to the pan, along with the reserved soaking liquid.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the cabbage and black pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, lifting the lid to stir occasionally.

5. Add the canned tomatoes; simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the soy beans; return to a boil.  Cook for a final 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens.  Stir in the parsley at the end.

A quick side note, since I'm cooking with wheat berries tonight: I'm often asked if I'm gluten-free as well as vegan, an odd pairing in my mind because, quite simply - there are no animals in gluten.  So the very easy answer is a resounding no - I am gluten-friendly, you could say.  And a good thing too, because I love wheat berries (the hard grain of the wheat plant).  If you are gluten-free for true allergy reasons, however, you could probably try this stew with a gluten-free grain such as millet.  

*Don't forget that Savoy cabbage is the head with curly green leaves, in contrast to the smooth leaves of green cabbage; it has a slightly more mellow flavor and works well in this stew.

**I'm always perplexed when a recipe asks me to leave a can of whole tomatoes undrained, and yet chop them.  To achieve this paradox, I add the undrained can to the stew, and break the tomatoes apart into smaller pieces directly in the pot.  Because of the 1 teaspoon sea salt called for in this recipe, I recommend canned tomatoes that have no salt added, such as Bionaturae.

***As with the canned tomatoes, look for no-salt-added canned beans to keep down the sodium levels in this dish.  Eden Foods is one great option, and a brand I recommend in general since the lining in their cans is BPA-free.  If you can't find canned black soy beans, substitute canned regular black beans or even frozen shelled edamame in a pinch.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 333 

Tasting Notes:
Incredibly earthy.  I loved the slightly-chewy texture of the wheat berries, and the savory tomato flavor, which came through strongest of all the ingredients.  Although the other veggies were quite yummy, the soup was a touch bland.  I am definitely thinking cumin next time, and perhaps other spices as well.  


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