When the ground freezes and the days are short, many local markets shrink to barely half their size when compared to the warm season. Regardless, you can still eat local very well. We don't have to rely on meat or heated greenhouses, but rather modest stored grains and roots can make for a satisfying winter dish before other vegetables come out of hibernation.
Risotto comes to mind. Usually it's prepared with Arborio rice, but you can prepare it with emmer, kamut or freekeh, which are all wheat berries. I use three grains, but you can make the dish with two varieties. Kamut is the wild variety, freekeh is harvested green and then smoked, and emmer or faro counts as an ancient wheat berry.
Wheat Berry Risotto
(recipe makes 2 entree-sized portions)
I put a cup of each kind of wheat berry individually into a pot in addition to one bay leaf, a pinch of salt, vinegar and 5 cups of water. Cover with a lid and bring it to boil. Continue to cook the grains on medium heat . The freekeh will likely take 40 minutes to get soft, whereas the emmer and kamut can take up to 2 hours—it depends on how long the wheat berries were stored. Often, longer storage means a longer cook time, but it also depends on the variety of wheat berry. Also, you can pre-soak the wheat berries in water for 6–8 hours, which cuts down on the cooking time. Once the wheat berries are soft, strain the excess cooking liquid and reserve.
As for the vegetables, I like to choose celery root, parsnips, large carrots—which many farmers call horse carrots—in addition to local wintered-in onions and garlic. I peel the vegetables and cut them into 1/4-inch cubes and cook them in a gallon-sized, preferably 12-inch-wide pot. In this way the vegetables get better pan-roasting surface. My cooking oil of choice is sunflower or grape seed oil. They are good oils for long and high heat roasting. In addition, they are heat stable instead of breaking down like extra virgin oils such as coconut or olive oil. Extra virgin oils I use later just before they go on the serving plate.
Let’s continue with the cooking. Cook the vegetables on medium heat with the addition of sea salt for 15 minutes, stirring every 3-5 minutes. When the vegetables start to brown add one tablespoon of water, then add the wheat berries, two cups of the reserved cooking liquid and cashew milk. Cook the mixture for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently. To finish, add extra virgin olive oil, nut milk [PKN1] and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Wheat berry mix:
1 cup emmer
1 cup kamut
1 cup freekeh
3 bay leaves
3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt for each wheat berry
1 cup carrots, quarter-inch diced
1 cup celery, quarter-inch diced
1 cup parsnip, quarter-inch diced
1/2 cup garlic, quarter-inch diced
1 red onion, quarter-inch diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Finishing the wheat berry dish:
1/2 cup cashew milk
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
5 grindings black pepper from the mill
Chef’s Note: For a richer version of the wheat berry dish, add 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan to the dish just before serving.