Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wheat Berries and Bacon

All of the big late spring produce offerings will come tumbling in any minute. Before all that happens, however, my spring dishes may be cobbled together from season-less and early seasonal ingredients as well as a cheat or two. For example, I recently made a sort of pilaf with some cooked wheat berries I found in the freezer, a handful of arugula that I grew in a container on the porch, and a locally-grown hot-house tomato. All this trio needed was a serendipitous stumble onto a recipe that only needed a little tweaking to fit in. Well, that and some bacon.

The resulting dish is a sort of primitive, ultra-deconstruction of the BLT sandwich. The bacon flavor permeates every bite and the tomatoes and arugula (in place of lettuce) follow along nicely. The wheat berries make something as complicated as a couple slices of bread utterly unnecessary. Of course, they also make it pretty much impossible to eat with one’s hands.

That’s a small sacrifice for something this delicious. And if you don’t want to take the journey with me, you don’t have to see this as a deconstructed BLT. It doesn’t’ take much longer to make than a sandwich, however, assuming you’ve cooked the wheat berries ahead of time. (There’s more on cooking wheat berries in this post.)

I was really happy with the flavors and textures of this dish. The starchy chewiness of the wheat berries and the savory smokiness of the bacon are the dominant themes, but they’re nicely balanced by the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar. I’d love to make it again right away, but I won’t. It’s time to move on. On to salad greens and asparagus and radishes and big bundles of fresh herbs. Besides, I gave my arugula a pretty drastic haircut and will have to wait for it to grow back anyway.

Wheat Berries with Bacon, Arugula and Tomato
Inspired by a recipe in Bon Appetit, September 2009

You can make this dish vegan by omitting the bacon and cooking the onions in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil or whatever oil you prefer.

4 strips thick-cut bacon
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 ½ cup cooked wheat berries
1 medium tomato, cored and chopped
1 cup arugula leaves, chopped or torn
2 tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (a few grinds from a pepper mill)

1. Cook the bacon in a medium-size skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat.

2. Add the onion and salt to the bacon fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and browned, about 5-7 minutes.

3. Add the wheat berries. Cook and stir about 1 minute. Add the tomato and arugula. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the vinegar and black pepper. Cook 3-4 minutes more, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes and arugula should be well-wilted.

4. Crumble or chop the bacon. Sprinkle on top of the finished dish.

Makes 2 main-dish or about 4 side-dish servings.

Another recipe like this one: Wheat Berry Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Lemon Vinaigrette

One year ago: Rhubarb Compote with Brown Sugar and Vanilla Bean

Two years ago: Chickpea and Olive Salad with Greek Flavors

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