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Wheat Berry Ricotta Pudding

Today was the Master Food Preservers grains class.  It was the third in a series of winter classes.  The first was soups & stews, and the second was beans.  I was very curious about this grains class especially.  Except for rice (and cous cous, which I recently found out is a pasta not a grain), I don’t regularly cook with grains.  Mostly it’s because I’m just not that familiar with them-how to cook them and which dishes to use or make with grains.  Even rice and cous cous I use mostly as a plain side to a flashier main dish.

I do like trying new foods, but grains were a bit of a mystery to me, although they have been gaining popularity lately.  Everyone seems to be talking about quinoa, farro, or wheat berries-making salads and elaborate main courses from these humble grains.  I admit, until today, I couldn’t even tell you what quinoa looked like.  Never mind how to prepare it and make a meal out of it. 

Happily, now I can!  Not only that but I have a whole packet of recipes, most of which I tasted earlier today.  We even got to make our own recipes (which will be compiled and emailed to us later) out of a grain in addition to watching the knowledgeable volunteers demonstrate how to make a bunch of dishes.  The best part, as always is the food!  I ate more grains in one sitting than I think I have in my entire life so far.  Almost every grain was sampled from bulgur, wheat berries (in a pudding!), two kinds of quinoa, hulled barley (not pearl), buckwheat, and of course rice.  They had 16 cooked grains to sample plain to get a taste of their flavor and texture.  One of the biggest surprises was the Wheat Berry Ricotta Pudding—a luscious pudding dessert studded with wheat berries.  It’s a unique way to “sneak” grains in your diet and who can say no to a healthy dessert?

 Wheat Berry Ricotta Pudding

Serves 8-10

1 pound ricotta cheese

¼ cup sour cream

3 eggs

½ cup sugar

¼ tsp vanilla

¼ tsp nutmeg

Zest of 1 lemon

1 ½ cups cooked wheat berries

  • Cook the wheat berries. In a medium-size saucepan bring 1 ¾ cups water to a boil.  Add ½ cup wheat berries.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for 50-60 minutes until the berries are tender but not mushy.  Allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish.
  • Place the casserole in a larger dish or baking pan deep enough for water to come half-way up the sides of the casserole.
  • Place in the oven.  Pour hot water into the baking pan or larger dish.
  • Bake 1 hour or until pudding is set.  It will be slightly jiggly in the center.
  • Allow to cool for 30 minutes to set up.  Sever warm or refrigerate.  Top with berry compote, if desired.
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