The Tri-City Herald's Food & Wine section May 11 will feature Menu Planner, a weekly feature giving seven days of dinner menus, shopping hints and tips on using leftovers from one meal in a new way later in the week. The section also includes more recipes plus buying, cooking and health tips on a variety of food-related subjects.
Wheat Berry Minestrone with Leafy Greens
Here’s a hearty meal in a bowl that makes a delicious lunch or light supper any time of the year. Wheat berries combined with legumes and leafy greens, such as kale or Swiss chard, make a soup that is equally delicious and nutritious, containing a very high amount of dietary fiber, among other nutrients. I like to serve this soup for supper, accompanied by whole-grain bread and a simple green salad. Leftovers make an excellent second meal, a great snack, or a superb welcome home for hungry travelers.
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Makes 6 main-course servings
2 cups cooked white kidney beans or 1 can (14-19 oz/394-798 mL) beans, drained and rinsed (see Tips)
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken stock, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup wheat, spelt or Kamut berries, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 oz) no-salt-added diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 cups coarsely chopped, trimmed kale or Swiss chard (See Tips)
Crostini, optional (see Tips)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
Extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor, combine beans with 1 cup of the stock and purée until smooth. Set aside.
In a large saucepan or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring, until celery is softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add wheat berries, tomatoes with juice, water, reserved bean mixture and remaining 3 cups of the stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until wheat berries are almost tender, about 1 hour. Stir in kale. Cover and cook until kale and wheat berries are tender, about 15 minutes.
When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls. Float 1 or 2 crostini in each bowl, if using. Sprinkle liberally with Parmesan, if using, and drizzle with olive oil.
Tips For this quantity of beans, soak and cook 1 cup dried beans.
For enhanced flavor, if you have a boot of Parmesan, the tough rind that is left over from a whole piece, add it to the soup along with the tomatoes.
To make crostini Brush 8 to 10 baguette slices with olive oil on both sides. Toast under preheated broiler, turning once, until golden, about 2 minutes per side.
When using leafy greens such as kale or Swiss chard, be sure to remove the tough stems before chopping. Also, since they can be quite gritty pay extra attention when washing. I always swish the leaves around in a basin of lukewarm water to remove any grit, then rinse thoroughly under cold running water before using.
Author's note: Unless you have a stove with a true simmer, after reducing the heat to low, I recommend placing a heat diffuser under the pot to prevent the mixture from boiling. This device also helps to ensure the grains will cook evenly and prevents hot spots, which might cause scorching, from forming. Heat diffusers are available at kitchen supply and hardware stores and are made to work on gas or electric stoves.
Nutrients per serving Calories: 278; Protein: 12.8 g; Carbohydrates: 53.9 g; Fat (Total): 3.9 g; Saturated Fat: 0.6 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1.8 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.8 g; Dietary Fiber: 12.0 g; Sodium: 85 mg; Cholesterol: 0 mg
From: The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook: 150 Recipes for Healthy Living by Judith Finlayson.