Spelt RisottoIn a bookstore recently I thumbed through a copy of Marion Nestle’s What to Eat, a book that’s long been on my ‘ought to read’ list. I read paragraph or two about sugar. She didn’t rail venomously against high fructose corn syrup as I hoped she would; from the body’s point of view, she said, it’s the same as sugar. (The problem with it is that it’s too prevalent in too many foods.) She went on to discuss the similarities between sugars and starches, and said that, from the body’s point of view, white sugar and white flour are very close to the same thing.

I don’t know whether I believe that — certainly I don’t want to believe it. It did Spelt Berries remind me though that for quite some time I’ve wanted to incorporate more whole grains into my diet. Most of my grain intake lately has been in the form of a delicious white sourdough bread that I get from a local bakery (Napoli and Sons on Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Avenue) which I justify with the very convenient but not very dependable belief that the fermented complexity of sourdough makes it just as healthy as whole grain. (This is one of the tenants of the Dave’s Kitchen Convenient Nutritional Guidelines.)

Regardless whether science will ever catch up with my nutritional beliefs, there’s no denying that whole grains are very healthy, and that they can be quite Spelt Berriessatisfying and delicious as well. I want to cook with them a lot more often. In this pursuit I have a few advantages: access to the Paisley Farm CSA; proximity to grocery stores that stock Bob’s Red Mill Flours; and the excellent King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book.

Recently, the Paisley Farm CSA delivered a bag of spelt berries. For some reason I kept forgetting they were spelt and thinking they were farro, which is why I prepared a dish based on this recipe for farro risotto. I parboiled them for a long time in salted water to which a large amount of olive oil was added; then cooked them further in a quasi-risotto style, in two cups of chicken stock Some Kaleadded a cup at a time and stirred until the berries had soaked it up.

I was expecting a creamy, risotto-style dish, but the spelt never quite absorbed all of the broth. Nor did it slowly give up its starches into the broth as Arborio rice will do. But it did produce a hearty, brothy, healthy-tasting and delicious dish. I mixed in some parboiled diced carrot and some blanched chopped kale, which added a lot of depth to the broth, and a grating of parmesan cheese for a salty, nutty tang. The leftovers were easily microwavable for an excellent office lunch. A victory was won in my Wholegrain Quest.