what berry?? wheat berry. WHAT?? what the hell is a wheat berry? this is how the conversation began when I started to tell my hubby about my dinner plans last weekend. he immediately jumped on the laptop and proceeded to educate himself, and admittedly, me as well… on just what in the hell the wheat berry was. I saw this recipe that made my eyes widen a bit while looking at Eating Well.com, on there it was listed as ‘zesty wheat berry black bean chili’… and my recipe is an adapted version. I tweaked it a bit, but not a ton- it was a vegetarian recipe to start with… but the omnivore in me felt compelled to start it out with a bit of ground hot sausage, browned well, thus leaving a beautiful crust on the bottom of the pot, only to be ‘deglazed’ right the hell into the mix once the veggies began to sauté over it. this created a ‘cooked all day’ taste, especially when the chicken broth was added. so yeah… wheat berries. this little guy is a superstar in the grain world. easily put, the wheat berry is the whole grain form of the wheat, in its most natural state before any processing has occurred. it’s full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. it brings copper, manganese, phosphorus and selenium to the table. most of which are hard to find in every day foods. selenium is great for our immune systems and our thyroid gland, and manganese helps boost our metabolism. all good, right?? if the pure healthy reputation isn’t enough to convince you, the taste will. wheat berries have a chewy, almost nutty sweet texture that blend seamlessly with even the boldest of flavors. they could have easily stood alone here, (they even have protein!) and I compel my veggie friends roll with this recipe sans sausage. just jump right in at sauté the onions, peppers, etc. (and sub vegetable broth for the chicken broth) Golden!! have it both ways.
the day you’re gonna make this, go ahead and cook the wheat berries ahead of time, as they take one hour to cook. the preparation?? EASY PEASY LEMON SQUEEZY. put the wheat berries in a heavy pot. cover with water two inches or so above the grains. bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. once cooked, drain into a colander, rinse with cold water and set aside. This recipe calls for two cups- cooked. I bought two cups of dry berries for 1.99/pound at my local Whole Foods. i’m guessing any health food store is gonna have these guys. they were listed as “hard red winter wheat berries” . when they cook up, they plump a bit- so you end up with more than you need. Add what you think looks right to your stew, (at least two cups but I did more) and then put the rest in an airtight container to use over salads, etc. for the rest of the week. heck, they’re so versatile you can even add them to your morning yogurt! ok, moving forward.
WHAT YOU NEED:
about a half a pound of bulk hot sausage (ground not links) -anything under one pound will do.
1 large yellow onion (diced)
1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and small diced)
1 yellow bell pepper (diced) – (red would work here too, but i’m a ninny and think about the visual of the end product)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
5 cloves garlic (minced)
2 cans black beans (rinsed and drained)
your wheat berries from above
2 tsp chili powder
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 can chicken broth
1/2 cup water
2 tsp brown sugar
1 avocado (diced)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro- chopped
HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
OK, like any recipe I tell you guys about, I say prep all of your ingredients first, and that way they are waiting on your ass when it’s go time. trust me, it makes your life sooo much easier when you’re starting out doing these recipes. it makes it hard to ‘mess up’ that way. I still cook this way for the most part- and that is probably one of the reasons I keep loving it so much. the old nursing adage applies here: work smarter, not harder.
so hit up your pan with some olive oil- just a swirl will do…. and start to brown your hot sausage. start out at medium high, breaking it up with your spatula as it cooks. you have to keep at this, flip it around, break it up continuously until it is small lovely browned pieces…. ready to add in later. remove the meat to a plate, and set aside. the bottom of your pot should look crusty and a mess at this point. perfecto. we are gonna work all of those lovely browned bits into the mix here in a sec. reduce heat to medium and add your pile of chopped onions. stir around for a few minutes while they warm up. add a bit of the diced tomatoes, maybe a 1/4 cup- and continue to try to ‘clean’ the bottom with the ingredients. add in the bell peppers and the jalapeno and turn the heat up to medium high. stir for a few mins and then add in the garlic and all of the dry spices. stir around a few more mins, at this point, your pot should be deglazed, if not, a bit more tomato and make it happen. once you’ve achieved that, add in your chicken broth, water, diced tomatoes, beans, brown sugar and add the sausage back in. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer like this for 25 minutes.
remove lid, stir well, and go ahead and add in your wheat berries. like I said, at LEAST two cups, but I just dumped in what I thought looked good as I gave it a stir. I wanted it to be thick. it’s your rodeo people…. take charge.
cook it for like 5 minutes more, and then remove from heat. give it a stir, and then you’re adding in the juice from one whole lime, and at least a half cup of chopped fresh cilantro. (again, I did not measure, just take a big rip and chop it) I reserved a smidge of the cilantro to sprinkle on top of the bowls, mostly because I love love love cilantro. after you stir in your cilantro and lime juice, you’re ready to eat!!
serve up a bowl and top with a few pieces of diced avocado (if you dig it) – and get ready for a flavor explosion in your mouth!! I love this recipe, and can’t wait to cook it up again soon. multiple co-workers liked it, my mom liked it, and hubba-lish liked it too!! winning!! Enjoy!
peace and love yo! spags.