Lately I’ve been trying to incorporate more whole grains in my diet. And by whole grains I don’t mean whole wheat pasta, or multigrain bread, or multigrain cereal. There is such a great variety of whole unprocessed grains out there that I simply knew nothing about: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, kasha, quinoa, wheat berries… the list could go on and on. I always see these at the bulk section of my local grocery store. The problem is that I don’t know how they need to be cooked. Do you need to rinse them, like you do with quinoa? Do you need to soak them? Will they take hours to cook? Do they freeze well? Will they be mushy? Will they be flavorless?
Luckily, I attended the Whole Grains, from A to Z Session at the Les Dames d’Escoffier Celebration of Food Event on March 10th with Maria Speck. Maria started her session by handing out samples of one of her recipes. I think that she literally started by saying “Hi, I’m Maria Speck, I’m distributing some samples.” As I sat there, waiting to get my sample, I expected some mushy, flavorless grain dish that tasted super “healthy.” Then we were handed this dessert:
Let me just say:
1–I was wrong. It was nothing like what I was expecting.
2–She had my undivided attention right after I took my first bite.
Her dessert, Wheat Berry Fool with Grand Marnier, was decadent, luscious, creamy, chewy, & flavorful.
After the session was over, I knew I had to purchase Maria’s Book: Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. It was exactly the type of book that I had been looking for! I love that there is a section that talks about all the different grains and a handy table that tells you when to soak, how much water to use, cook time, and yield. The book is also filled with fabulous recipes, like the one on the cover: Grilled Haloumi Cheese with Leek and Rye Berry salad.
I’m so glad I got to meet Maria, and I can’t wait to make more recipes from the book. I have more soft wheat berries soaking on my counter as I type this! I hope you try this recipe.
Wheat Berry Fools with Grand Marnier Figs
Serves 6 to 8
3/4 cup finely chopped dried figs, preferably Turkish or Greek
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other good-quality orange-flavored liqueur
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (about 2 oranges)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup cooked soft whole wheat berries
1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1. Combine the figs and the liqueur in a small bowl and set aside to plump for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, while you prep the ingredients.
2. Meanwhile, beat the yogurt with 2 tablespoons of the honey, 1 tablespoon of the orange zest, and the cinnamon in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the wheat berries. Using a hand mixer at medium speed, whip the cream in a medium bowl until foamy. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons honey and continue whipping until soft peaks form.
3. Drain the figs, reserving their juices. Combine 2 tablespoons of the figs with the remaining 1 teaspoon zest in a small bowl and set aside for garnish. Stir the remaining figs into the bowl with the yogurt mixture. Scrape one-third of the whipped cream on top and fold in using a spatula. Fold in the remaining whipped cream in 2 additions until just incorporated. Divide among serving bowls, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 2 hours. To serve, top each bowl with a bit of the reserved figs and their juices.
To get a head start: The dessert can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead. Add a dash more liqueur to the figs reserved for the garnish, if necessary.
To lighten it up: You can use low-fat plain Greek yogurt, if you like.
This recipe is reprinted with permission from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
The book can be purchased on Amazon.