In my quest to fill my belly with whole foods, I have fallen in love with the bulk foods aisle at the grocery store. I’ve always enjoyed the ‘scoop your own food’ aisle, but recently I’ve become obsessed. About a week ago we had a power outage at work (thank you, Oncor!) and I got the whole day off!! I probably should have grabbed a book and headed to the pool, but instead I went to the grocery store. I know, I’m kinda lame, but I did splurge on some fun outdoor plates at Target, so I’m not a total goob. I’ve been stocking up on ingredients I don’t currently have but want to try, so I had some major fun in the bulk aisle! And although I hate Willy Wonka, I felt like a kid dancing around his chocolate factory (minus the creepy songs and oompa loompas). I sashayed down the aisle scooping up various flours, grains, nuts, and dried fruits. I took notes on cooking some of my new ingredients and pondered all of the different salts one can get from seas around the world. I even got into a conversation with a woman about organic yogurt. Man, I felt so cool! It was pretty much the best grocery shopping experience of my life.
When I got home, I unloaded all of my loot and was suddenly inspired to reorganize my pantry. And now, if it is even possible, I got more nerdy. I pulled out my trusty label-maker and created labels for all of my various containers of flour, grains, and beans. I just love organization. Straight lines, clean surfaces, containers, labels…just a little touch of OCD…nothing too scary. *wink*
For dinner that night I adapted a recipe from my new cookbook, Super Natural Cooking, using a lot of the ingredients from my fun shopping trip. I decided to give rye berries a try because they are chocked full of fiber. And as Emily says, I am the Fiber Girl! I can’t help it. I’m a little obsessed with getting my fiber. Since I was preparing the rye berries for dinner that night, I didn’t have time for a 5 hour soak (the berries, not me). Soaking the rye and then cooking it in boiling water for about two hours produces a softer berry, but being a little pressed for time I chose the shorter method of boiling them for about an hour. The berries still opened up a bit and had a chewy texture that worked really great in this dish.
People who enjoy cooking tend to have a creative, artistic side. A meal like this really reminds me of that fact. I was able to work with different types of textures and colors and the dish turned out beautiful. I truly don’t mind eating healthy when the food looks irresistible. There is just no reason to eat boring chicken and plain steamed vegetables when you can eat a meal that combines the nuttiness of whole grains with crunchy vegetables and nuts, mixed with a sweet citrus dressing. A great meal should be pleasing to the eyes, mouth, and to your inner body.
Rye Berry Salad
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
2 cups rye berries, uncooked and thoroughly rinsed
6 cups water
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
3 cups of fresh spinach, rinsed
1 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated/crumbled cheese (any one of these would work: feta, goat, parmesan or asiago)
1 orange (zest and juice)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper as needed
In a large saucepan, combine the rye berries, water, and salt over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer berries, covered, for about an hour. Berries should be chewy. If not, continue simmering for up to 30 minutes.
While rye berries are cooking, toast the pine nuts and make the citrus dressing. Place pine nuts in a single layer of a sauté pan or skillet. Toast the pine nuts over medium heat, stirring often, until they are fragrant. Keep an eye on them so they do not burn. Once toasted, set aside.
In the same pan used for the pine nuts, heat one teaspoon of olive oil and add chopped shallot. Continue sautéing shallot until translucent, about 6 minutes. Place cooked shallot into a small bowl, adding the zest and juice from one orange, and the lemon juice. Slowly whisk in the remaining olive oil until dressing is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
When rye berries have finished cooking, drain and place them into a large bowl. Add the spinach, toasted pine nuts, and citrus dressing. Toss until combined and top with cheese. Serves 4-6.