Toasted Wheat Berry Pilaf

Last night I made a pilaf which I’d cooked before (and loved!), but with a few changes. Originally I found this recipe for Toasted Bulgar Pilaf from Martha, but had wheat berries, not bulgur. It turned out fabulous that time (more crunchy than bulgur, probably), and I didn’t used almonds that time. However, I had an inspiration to add sauteed, chopped fennel bulb to the pilaf – since I had about 2/3 of a bulb leftover and needed something to use it in, plus I thought the flavors would marry well. So, I sauteed the fennel until translucent but still with body, then added the wheat berries which I’d toasted in a nonstick pan for about 4 minutes. At this point I realized that the bird food I used to feed to Hobbes had wheat berries (I thought those things looked familiar!), but instead of turning me off this injection of knowledge merely made me feel like I was eating something immensely nutritious. Anyway, then I added the chicken stock and about half a cup of white wine (chardonnay, which I was also drinking … a good bottle of unoaked chardonnay called Laboure-Roi from St. Armand Macon Villages), plus another 1/4 cup of water; I figured the more robust grain I was using required a touch more liquid than the lighter-bodied bulgur. While that came to a boil and simmered for around 25 minutes, I toasted the almonds in the nonstick pan until their cheeks turned a lovely bronze color, then chopped them into manageable pieces. In the final five minutes of liquid absorption, I added the almonds to the 

The finished pilaf - a lovely marriage of texture and flavor.

The finished pilaf - a lovely marriage of texture and flavor.

pilaf. What a fantastic aroma the bay leaf and cinnamon (broken into two pieces to release more flavor) gave to the pilaf while cooking! The whole dish, while giving my jaw a workout, was absolutely delicious – it’s a hearty and satisfying side dish, which this night accompanied my leftover yellow pepper soup … and a second glass of that sweet chardonnay….

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