Zucchini, bell pepper and wheat berry pilaf


I need to apologize for my absence. Our one and only child graduated from high school last week. We’ve spent the last few weeks attending awards ceremonies and graduation parties, and planning our own celebration. Here is our wonderful Luke with his exhausted but proud parents:


We had a joint party with three other families. I highly recommend this. There’s a surprisingly vast amount of work involved in preparing for a gathering of family and friends (about 300, in our case). Tom and I spent two days thawing, splitting, pounding, marinating and grilling roughly 50 pounds of chicken. We also prepared a giant fruit platter and an equally huge vegetable platter, made two dozen cupcakes (future post), lugged gallons of water and other drinks to the party, decorated and cleaned up.

This amounted to a fourth of the work involved. Our friend Ann, whose son Collin was one of the graduates, made this unbelievable cake from scratch (fondant included):

Cake1The photo doesn’t begin to do it justice. Note the pennants for their future colleges at the top, and Luke’s beloved soccer ball on his locker.

Now that the excitement’s behind us, I’m back to regular cooking. This, I confess, is an older post I’m just getting around to publishing, but I should be back to a more regular schedule. Now, on to our previously scheduled program…

This is the second dish I’ve made with wheat berries. Simmer a big batch in lightly salted water to cover for 45 minutes to an hour until they’re tender but still have texture. Freeze extras in freezer bags.

They’re nutty, nicely chewy, and adapt to a variety of dishes. Here, I combined them with some quickly sautéed vegetables, a little stock, and a shot of lemon juice to brighten the hearty flavors. Use vegetable stock and it’s vegetarian; skip the cheese and it’s vegan. It makes a great side dish, but is hearty and satisfying enough to be an entree. It will also make a great filling for peppers or hollowed-out zucchini or eggplant. In fact, you could substitute eggplant for the zucchini.

The concept will work with other grains such as quinoa, barley and brown rice; I’m making it  tonight with farro, to accompany a grilled pork tenderloin. I’ll add kalamata or green olives, leaving them whole so Tom can pick them out. More for us.

Zucchini, Pepper, and Wheat Berry Pilaf
serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as an entree

2 tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery including leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
2 small or 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups COOKED wheat berries
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add the onion, celery, and garlic; sauté for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the pepper and zucchini and sauté for another 10 minutes or so, until the veggies are tender and have a few browned spots.

Pour the cooked wheat berries into a large bowl. Scrape the vegetables over the wheat berries. Pour the stock into the skillet you cooked the veg in and stir to get all the lovely browned bits. Pour the stock over the wheat berries and veg and add the lemon juice. Stir well and taste; add salt and pepper. Stir in cubed cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes until heated through and bubbly, and some of the liquid has been absorbed.


About Rivertree kitchen

I am a freelance editor with a specialty in cookbook editing. I've written two small cookbooks (50 Best Sundaes and 50 Best Cookies) and have edited more than 200. Despite my immersion in recipes, my favorite way to cook is to see what's in the fridge and wing it. I live with my husband and two dogs in rural Wisconsin. Husband (Tom) and son (Luke) are talented cooks themselves. All the photographs in this blog are my own creations. I'm a neophyte in the world of food photography (as if you couldn't tell), but I still claim blushing ownership of the pix you see here. If you want to reprint them (I can't imagine why), please give credit, if for no other reason than to pass on the blame.
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