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
1 pound ricotta cheese
¼ cup sour cream
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.