Wheat Berry and Sweet Potato Bake
My apartment window looks over the above-ground tracks of Metro North, which runs from Grand Central in the middle of New York, makes a brief stop in Harlem, and then flees the city. We can hear it rumble, which some visitors think makes our apartment quintessential. But we have a great view, since buildings can't be erected over the tracks, facing uptown toward apartments much higher than ours. And at this moment, only a few of these other windows are all dressed up for the holidays. I guess many don't feel they need any extra adornment, since New York twinkles all on it's own, without needing any excuses. And for as much as I complain about the bitter cold of the city, somehow it seems even more New York in the winter. For one thing, the uniform of mostly black is suited to darker days. And people here, people other than me that is, still manage to be fashionable under eight layers. I personally stick to a long somewhat puffy coat that looks just like wearing a down sleeping bag out in public. (Que more random NYC photos.)
I realize the cliche of cooking during the winter is heavy, filling foods that might add an extra layer of warmth under your coat. But in this inter-holiday period, simpler can be better. I've written before about this series of books, which unexpectedly, happily, keep coming through. I'm not going to say I like this last one quite as much as I absolutely loved this one and this one. But I do love all of its individual elements, apart as well as together. The recipe comes from (don't laugh) Prevention Magazine's 2010 annual compilation called Eat Up Slim Down! (the exclamation point is theirs.) And while I don't usually like taking directions like that from my cookbooks, the recipes are good, so you can't exactly blame a book for its title. Or judge it, or something.
You may not have a lot of experience with wheat berries, but I find them completely satisfying. If you don't demand that your grains immediately fade to the background in a dish, you'll probably like them too. Because they're chewy, and good for you, and there's just something so 'real food' about them. Probably because they are real food, since they're basically the entire wheat grain. Paired with melting cheese and melting sweet potatoes, they give you something to really chew on. I found mine at Whole Foods, so you might start looking there.
Wheat Berry and Sweet Potato Bake
Adapted from Eat Up Slim Down! 2010
2 cups water
1/2 cup wheat berries
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into slices about 1/8 inch thick
2 cloves garlic, passed through a press
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
1/4 cup vegetable stock
Put the water and wheat berries in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. The wheat berries should be tender and the water should be absorbed. Season with salt.
Preheat the oven to 350 F, and grease an 8x8 inch backing dish. Put half the sweet potatoes in the dish, then sprinkle with half of the pressed garlic, as well as half of the herbs, half of the cooked wheat berries and a pinch of salt to season. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup cheese over the top. Next place the rest of the sweet potato slices over the cheese, the rest of the garlic, herbs and wheat berries. Season with a bit more salt, then sprinkle another 1/2 cup of cheese over the top. Pour the broth over the top. Reserve the last 1/4 - 1/2 cup of cheese.
Cover the baking dish with tinfoil, and bake for 45 minutes, until the potatoes are totally tender. Uncover the dish and sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top. Return the uncovered baking dish to the oven and bake for a final 5 minutes longer, until cheese is melted. Serve.