Saturday, May 30, 2009

Warm Wheat Berry Salad with Copious Coriander

Since I gave up eating refined white breads, flours, pastas, or rice a couple of years ago, I have been slowly discovering the wide variety of whole grains that are out there. Lately, wheat berries have become one of my favorites. The wheat berry is simply the entire, unprocessed, uncracked wheat kernel. A bowl of wheat berries with some veggies is a very satisfying meal, or treated oatmeal-style, it would make a hearty breakfast. You can also grind up the wheat berries to make your own whole wheat flour - I'm not that ambitious...

For this recipe, I used Bob's Red Mill Soft White Wheat Berries, because that is what I found at Whole Foods, but hard white or hard red wheat berries would work too. You do have to plan ahead a little, since it takes about an hour to boil the wheat berries - then you are free to put them together with anything you can think of. One cup of dry wheat berries will make two dinner portions, and leave enough extra that you can have for breakfast or throw into a pot of soup later.

My other inspiration for this recipe was cilantro/coriander. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you have probably noticed that coriander is one of my absolute favorite flavors, but did you know that coriander seeds and cilantro come from the same plant? So, why not combine coriander seeds, ground coriander, and fresh cilantro into one dinner? It's like a perfect circle. On that note, I feel I have to mention that there is a blog called F*@# Yeah Cilantro, and if you like tongue-in-cheek, vulgar humor involving herbs, then you should check it out. If you don't like pictures of food accompanied by tons of F-bombs...well, you have been warned.

If you can't find coriander seeds in the spice aisle at the store, check in the aisle where they keep the Mexican specialty food items. Tossing a few of these into a recipe adds a pleasant crunchy, orange-y surprise when you bite into a seed. This recipe should be made with your choice of whatever vegetables are in season. The baby artichokes and purple cauliflower I used were really good, but I could envision this working with squash, green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, etc.


1 cup uncooked wheat berries
3 1/2 cups water
a pinch of coriander seeds
a pinch of salt
6 tulip artichokes (or other baby artichokes)
2 tsps. olive oil
1 small head of cauliflower (I used purple cauliflower, but white is fine.)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 Tsps. apple cider vinegar
4 scant tsps. Dijon mustard
4 tsps. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
another pinch of coriander seeds
salt and pepper to taste
2 dozen small shrimp
4-5 cubes feta cheese per bowl
4-5 tsps. chopped fresh cilantro

1. Bring the wheat berries and water to a boil, sprinkle in a little salt and a few coriander seeds for added flavor. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about an hour, or until the wheat berries are al dente. You may have to drain off a little excess water before serving.

2. Steam the baby artichokes for three minutes in a microwave steamer bag, or for about 15 minutes on the stove top. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel away and discard the outer leaves until you reach the tender part that doesn't resist cutting with a sharp knife. Cut off and throw away the tough tips, then slice the remaining artichokes lengthwise into halves or quarters. (More about working with baby artichokes here.)

3. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, and heat the olive oil to high heat in a large pan. Sear the cauliflower florets on high heat for about three minutes, stirring frequently. You want to see a little bit of char in spots. Turn the heat down, and add the artichokes and shrimp to the pan.

4. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, coriander, cumin, and coriander seeds, along with a few dashes of salt and pepper. Set this vinaigrette aside for now.

5. While the shrimp are heating, start assembling the bowls. Drain the wheat berries if necessary, then scoop an ample portion into each bowl. Once the veggie/shrimp mixture is finished, spoon it on top of the wheat berries, drizzle on the vinaigrette, and top with the cubes of feta. (Don't use pre-crumbled feta. Get a block of feta and cube it yourself for a creamier texture.) Garnish each bowl with a generous sprinkle of cilantro.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Cinco de Mayo - make salsa verde!

Oh yeah! Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite sort-of holidays. I mean, I would like it better if work was canceled, but I can't really complain about a day that results in copious amounts of Mexican food. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I'm posting a tried-and-true recipe for homemade salsa verde. Mike and I have made this so many times, we haven't referred to printed instructions in years.

First, however, I wanted to offer a few tips for any other hypoglycemics reading this blog. Enjoy Cinco de Mayo, but avoid flour tortillas - the corn tortillas will be kinder to your blood sugar. Watch out for the Mexican rice, too! Beans would be better. And, last but not least, stick with a good Mexican beer (Corona, Tecate, Dos Equis, Negra Modela...yes, I know my beers!), and STEP AWAY from the margaritas! The mix is mostly sugar water, and hard liquor really concentrates the sugar in the alcohol. I have a theory that a hangover comes from low blood sugar plus dehydration - don't help me prove it. :)

OK - back to the salsa. Where I'm from in Alabama, everyone is quite familiar with green tomatoes, but tomatillos...not so much. One of the key differences is that tomatillos are ripe, even though they are green and small. Tomatillos should be easy to find in the produce section of most major grocery store chains. I usually pick through them, peeling back the papery husks just enough to make sure the tomatillo inside is bright green with no soft spots. Mike stands patiently by, holding the produce bag, knowing that the tomatillo selection process will be worth the wait.


1 1/5 lbs. tomatillos
1/2 fresh jalapeno
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbsps. minced garlic
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
additional cumin and coriander to taste

1. Remove and discard the husks from the tomatillos. Wash the tomatillos, dry them, then cut them into halves or quarters (depending on the size of the tomatillo). Place half of the tomatillo pieces in a blender or food processor with the half of a jalapeno pepper (seeds removed). Process until enough room is made in the blender/food processor for the rest of the tomatillos, avocado half, cilantro, and garlic. Blend everything together until is has a salsa consistency, basically smooth and not too chunky. It will be a gorgeous green color, like the epitome of spring.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the cumin and coriander to the oil, and let it heat for 30 seconds. Lean in close and get a whiff! Pour in the salsa, and stir to distribute the spices throughout.

3. Cook the salsa for approximately 15 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Start with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and add more, if desired, as you stir and taste. Add more cumin and coriander, a half teaspoon at a time, until you are satisfied with the flavor. I probably use two more teaspoons of each at this point, but I never measure (sorry!). I just keep shaking the spices in, little by little, until it tastes bright and fresh, but not sour.

Homemade salsa verde is delicious hot on nachos, chilaquiles, or carne asada, and is also great as a dip. This recipe will make enough salsa for a party, and it keeps well in the fridge for at least a week.

Tomatillo on Foodista