I’ve been craving risotto – these chilly spring evenings are the perfect time for such a hearty and satisfying dish. I had some wheat berries in the pantry and decided to use those as a substitute for rice. Whole grain wheat berries still have the entire wheat kernel intact and haven’t yet been processed into flour. While they take awhile to cook, they are deliciously worth it and pack a nice nutritional punch.
There are those who will tell you that soaking your grains is not necessary and there are those who will tell you the opposite. Based on research I’ve done, I believe you should soak your grains. All grains contain phytic acid in their outer layer, which can block absorption of the nutrients. Soaking helps to reduce or even remove the acid from the grain. I soaked the berries in a bowl of water for about 24 hours and then drained them and set them aside to begin preparing my dish. While this risotto does take some time to cook, it’s not near as fussy as a regular risotto. You don’t have to stand at the stove stirring and adding liquid gradually – I added all the stock at the same time and then just stirred it on occasion. It turned out just fine.
Carrot & Spinach Wheat Berry Risotto
1-1/2 cups wheat berries, soaked and drained (see above)
½ cup red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. of fresh carrots, grated
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups of stock
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ cup (or more) Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded
Add olive oil to a large pot and place over medium heat. Add in onion and stir until translucent then add in the garlic and stir until fragrant – about a minute. Add the berries, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the wine and stir occasionally until mostly absorbed then add the shredded carrot and stock. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to simmer and cook until berries are just about tender – about an hour. Stir in spinach and cheese. Serve hot. Serves 4-6
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Tammy Batcha is a life-long resident of the Shenandoah Valley. A long-time commuter, she seeks to reconnect to her community. A board certified, health and wellness coach, she continues to study integrative nutritional theory while guiding others on a path to wellness.