I have no exceptional strategy for getting through a season of eating shortbread, your mom’s caramel popcorn, and tins of holiday cookies and boxes of chocolates that seem to mysteriously turn up every time a guest appears. Since these things aren’t eaten year-round, why not simply enjoy them, without guilt? I’d avoid anything storebought, and instead dive into the good stuff, the homemade stuff. When they’re made with love, with real butter, cream and high quality ingredients, surely you can’t refuse because of an extra hour or two of hot yoga in the New Year?
In everything, strive for balance. In the midst of the cranberry sauce, the sweet potatoes, your body might tell you it needs some dark greens and fiber– listen to it. That way you’ll enjoy smaller amounts of butter-slathered dishes all the more, when you’ve already had the nutrients that pushed you through a busy day.
Wheatberries are a recent discovery for me, and they have a great chewy texture and are hard to overcook. I’ve taken to eating some variation of this dish almost every day for either breakfast or lunch. Sometimes I make it with wild rice or quinoa instead, other times with arugula, a bit of avocado, and a poached egg. The elements and methods are always the same– I start by cooking a big pot of some chosen grain, enough for several days, so that I can reheat it with some wilted dark green vegetable and add my toppings. This version is made with stale bread– try it, it’s so satisfying that it won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
Dark Greens and Wheatberry Panzanella
Ingredients1 tbsp butter 2 tbsp olive oil 2 cloves garlic, chopped 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped 1/2 tsp chili flakes 1 cup cooked wheatberries 1/2 bunch kale, rapini, green swiss chard, or collard greens 1 cup stale Italian or French bread, cut into one-inch cubes 1/8 cup parmesan cheese, shaved juice from 1/2 lemon sea salt and pepper optional: almond slices, green onions, frozen corn, avocado, cubes of firm tofu or tempeh, you get the idea.
First cook the wheat berries in a large pot, using this method or adding 3 1/2 cups water per 1 cup of wheat berries, 1/2 tsp of salt, and bringing it to a boil. Once boil, turn heat to lowest setting and let cook for 40-45 minutes without opening the lid. You can test for doneness by trying the wheat berries; if they are chewy all the way through and no longer hard, they are done. Turn off heat and drain off the cooking liquid.
In a medium size skillet, heat the olive oil on medium and toast the bread cubes for a few minutes until they have absorbed the oil and turned slightly brown. Remove from heat and put aside in a medium bowl. Heat more oil and melt the butter, add the garlic and onions and fry until translucent, then add the chili flakes. Stir everything around a little so the onions and garlic get to know the chili a bit better. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Remove the stems from the greens and slice them into ribbons and before adding them to the pan with a little water. When the greens have wilted (about 2-3 minutes), add 1 cup of cooked wheatberries (or more if you prefer) and a little salt; stir until the wheatberries are coated with the oils, and warmed through if you’re using grains that were cooked previously. Add any optional ingredients at this point, i.e. frozen corn, almond slices, tofu; heat on medium heat. Squeeze the lemon juice on top and stir one last time before combining everything with the cubed bread. Toss gently, add the shaved parmesan and black pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste (a little more salt, or lemon juice, or paprika if you wish).
Makes about 1 1/2 portions– enough for a meal, with a little leftover if you’re still hungry. Have a wonderful holiday, and eat (somewhat) responsibly!