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Toothsome new grain

Soft white wheat berries "in the rough." Photo from Miller's Grain House




Well, new at least to me -- new as a grain from which to make casseroles and salads and other such experimental goodies from the kitchen.




Understand at the top, I'm a sucker for any food, any ingredient that enlivens the daily menu. I've mail ordered, cooked and then crossed off the list (as being not quite my cup of tea) more different kinds of dried beans and grains than you could pack into a 25-pound grocery sack.




A few I keep going back to -- beluga lentils, quinoa, appaloosa beans -- and about once every few months, I order something I've never before tried and give it a waltz around my homely little kitchen.




What better time than a three-day weekend for just such an experiment.




The grain of the hour, the one pictured in its straight-from-the-package state above, is soft white wheat berries. That's what you'll Google if you want to order these and give them a try.




They look like fat pine nuts in the package, and simply simmered until tender, they taste like -- well, have you ever eaten a Kashi frozen dinner? They taste like the pilaf upon which lemon shrimp and other main-course items are laid in those dinners. What's really nice is the way these little nibs take to other ingredients, absorbing and adopting the tastes of things with which you cook them.




Getting them soft is where the experimentation comes in. I presumed that "doing them like rice" was the way to go, so I did, and discovered along the way that I had to double or triple the original amount of water and time. Where I imagined 1/3 cup of grain would need 1 cup of water and perhaps 25 minutes at the simmer, it took more like 3 cups of water and more than an hour on the stove. Not to worry, though. The end result, the salad from Bob's Red Mill, below, was worth the fussing about and the wait.




And if bean and grain salad falls just outside your culinary comfort zone, I also stumbled upon what sounds like a fantastic vegetarian dish at this site. That one's next up.




WHEAT BERRY AND WHITE BEAN SALAD




1 cup cooked soft white wheat berries
1 cup cooked white or navy beans (I used canned, rinsed and drained)
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, sliced (use some leafy tops, too)
1/2 cup diced tomato (I'm still draining and using canned diced)




Vinaigrette dressing:


2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (lime's my favorite)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped parsley (need we say Italian flat-leaf?)
1 tablespoon honey mustard (you can use plain Dijon, but honey is mu-u-uch nicer)
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Mix the vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients with a whisk or blender. Add the salad ingredients and mix well. Let chill, overnight if you have time, to let flavors blend. Serve chilled on a bed of lettuce. Makes 10 servings, each with 170 calories, 110 of them from fat, 20 mg of sodium and 3 grams of fiber.


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