Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wheat Berries with Kale, Chickpea and Chard Pesto

Some people see vegan as a limiting diet, overflowing with sacrifices. They pepper me with questions about everything I'm missing out on.

Not that I've limited myself too much. I'm still using all those goodies in my baking, though I've cut down on the quantities quite dramatically, even testing out some vegan desserts here and there.

I just see things a bit differently. It doesn't feel like a sacrifice to me.

Here's how the conversation tends to go:

You're eating vegan? Really? What about butter?

I don't miss butter, really.

But what do you put on your popcorn?

Nutritional yeast, a generous amount, with a dash of olive oil. Delicious. 

Then what about toast?

I've been loving ripe avocado. And drizzled olive oil with za'atar. 


Tofu. Maybe with some nutritional yeast thrown in to give it that traditional flavor. Or tempeh. 

Huh. I could handle giving up eggs, I guess. Maybe even butter. But I could never, NEVER give up cheese. I just love it too much. How do you do it?

I just leave it out. I plan recipes without it. It's amazing how many beautiful recipes there are without cheese. Plus, BONUS, you can taste all the other ingredients so much more clearly. 

And there's this fantastic new pesto I just discovered. It's cheese free.

Really, Katie? Really?

Yes. It's loaded with chickpeas. It's so healthy. It's so tasty. It's perfect. 

Hmm.... I'm curious. Tell me more!

It's one of the best pestos I've had, and it's certainly the healthiest. I loaded it onto wheat berries and filled the bowl with green peas. It's hearty. Each bite is loaded with flavor. You should try it. Really. 

Wheat Berries with Kale, Chickpea and Chard Pesto 
recipe adapted from Taste Spotting

NOTE: Wheat berries should be soaked overnight before they are cooked. I put my dried chickpeas and wheat berries on the counter to soak the night before I prepared this dish, and it made assembly a snap the next day. This yielded at least 7 dinner-size portions.

1 bunch kale and chard, chopped (the equivalent of one bunch total)
1 clove garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups chickpeas (cooked from scratch or canned)
1/4 cup olive oil (add more if needed)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups wheat berries
4 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups peas

Prepare Pesto: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add kale (or kale/chard mix) and blanch for about 30 seconds. Remove and submerge in very cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well before adding to the pesto.

In the bowl of a food processor, blender or immersion blender, combine kale and chickpeas. Pulse until a puree is formed. Add garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pulse until chopped. Slowly add olive oil until the mixture is the consistency of pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook Wheat Berries: In a medium saucepan, bring 4 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add wheat berries and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, until the grains are chewy. Drain any excess water.

Assemble Dish: In a medium saucepan, boil peas for about 1 minute, until just barely blanched. In a large bowl, combine wheat berries, pesto and peas. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

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