Tom bought me a year’s membership to our local co-op for my birthday in December. (Reminder to self: check to see if they still have ramps before the season ends.) I’ve loaded up on all sorts of goodies, especially whole grains (the oatmeal was created shortly after a co-op visit).
Wheat berries are now residing in my pantry. I had a vague idea of a wheat berry pilaf when I bought them. But we were out of soup. This spells imminent disaster in our house. Luke and I rely on a permanent, rotating stash of frozen soups for last-minute meals. We had just polished off the last of the tomato-tortellini soup. I’d made chicken stock the day before, and had some lovely roast chicken in the fridge.
Here’s the reasoning: wheat berries are a lot like barley. Barley is delicious in soup. Ergo, wheat berries should also be delicious in soup.
Luckily, the premise turned out to be true. Even Tom, who is not fond of unusual grains, really liked it. The nutty, chewy berries were a great contrast to the slightly acidic tomatoes and tender chicken. We ate it with the last of the whole wheat bread I’d made the day before (see future posts).
Wheat Berry and Chicken Soup with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
makes 4-6 servings
1/2 cup wheat berries
2 tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
1 tbs. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
salt and pepper
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 can (14 oz.) fire-roasted tomatoes
4-6 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Parmesan, for garnish
Cover the wheat berries with water and soak for an hour. Drain, rinse, and place in a saucepan with water to cover by an inch or so. Cover the pan and place on high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about an hour until the wheat berries are chewy but tender.
While the wheat berries cook, pour the oil into a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes to soften, then add the carrots, celery, thyme, and Aleppo (if using). Cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the tomatoes and 4 cups of the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. At this stage, you’re just melding the flavors; timing’s not crucial. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
At this point, you can purée part of the soup. I did; I like the texture after a few blitzes of the stick blender. It’s not necessary, though. Stir in the chicken. Check the wheat berries; if they’re done, drain and add them to the soup. Simmer for another 10 minutes, so the wheat berries can absorb the flavors of the soup. Add more stock if the soup is too thick.
Just before serving, stir in the parsley. Use a vegetable peeler to top the soup with curls of parmesan, if desired.