Saturday, July 18, 2020

"Around the Power Plate" Beans with Wheat Berries, Kale, and Peach (No Added Fat)

Today was our third show of So Many Cooks in the Kitchen, a group that I help to organize where we go kitchen-to-kitchen cooking and talking nutrition among Food for Life instructors (check out our 1-minute promo). The show was live, but a recorded livestream can be viewed. Eventually, this will be edited into approximately half hour parts and aired on Plant-Based Network for which I am on the Advisory Committee.

I presented on peaches and nectarines. Our team of about a dozen instructors put a document together with our recipes; that is available at

I am pretty good about coming up with new recipes. I guess the fact that in more than 16 years of knowing my wife I haven't repeated a dinner for her helps. I had made some general comments in the episode document last night but then thought I should be more specific, so I created a recipe and only tried the results after I demonstrated making it. My family loved it; I suspected that this unusual combination would work.

In the Food for Life program, we recommend eating from the Power Plate of Legumes (our first SMCK show), Vegetables (our second show), Fruits, and Grains (our next show with date TBD but likely in mid-August 2020). I thought that it would be neat to make a dish that featured ingredients from each of the sections of the Power Plate. Here is what I did, demonstrating this quickly at the tail end of my cooking segment on today's show.

  • 1/2 cup hard (or soft) wheat berries, rinsed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cups prepared beans; I recommend black beans or red kidney beans, but other kinds will work
  • 1 1/2 cups kale leaves hand-torn and cut into roughly 1" squares (stems excepted; they can be composted or otherwise discarded); alternately, use a cup of Swiss Chard, stems and all, cut into 1" strips perpendicular to the stem
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion cut into approximately 3/8" cubes (you can substitute yellow onion)
  • 1 or 2 medium peaches or nectarines, ripe or still just firm (not very hard) but with no green, cut into approximately 1/2" - 3/4" squares
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • (optional) 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) salt; try fleur de sel
  • (optional) 1/4 lemon pepper or freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put the wheat berries with three times as much water in a pressure cooker (I used my Instant Pot) and cook for 30 minutes; alternately, cook for 40-50 minutes stovetop (bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cover); set aside till warm or at room temperature (the wheat berries can be made in advance and refrigerated)
  2. Work with the beans
    • If using prepared (canned, for example) beans, mix in the greens, onion, and peaches, and warm for a few minutes until the greens cook down a bit and the fruit glistens, gently and partially caramelized
    • If making beans, as I did, just add the greens, onion, and peaches to the hot beans when they are ready, and mix. Depending on how hot the beans are, the greens and fruit will be ready within a few minutes, but you can also cover and let sit for a few more minutes to cook a bit more
  3. Mix in the lemon or lime juice and, if you are using it, the salt and/or pepper, as well as the room temperature or cool wheat berries
  4. Serve with a garden salad or tomato wedges

I served this for dinner several hours after the show. My intuition was right - the combination worked well! My whole family loved the meal; we each had seconds - and had enough to share with neighbors and keep for leftovers (I increased the quantities of ingredients by about a quarter so they would be easier to show up on camera; realistically, then, the quantities I have here would be enough for a family of five or so).

I served with just a little bit of salt and no black pepper. Salt just didn't go so well with this dish, though my wife did prefer a little salt. When I had seconds, I used some citrus fleur de sel, which was fine, but I don't think really necessary.

Ideas for the future

In today's show, I also made skillet peach/nectarine (so yummy and easy; just cook for 3-4 minutes over medium-low to medium heat, flipping once) and deglaze with lime/lemon juice mixed with cinnamon if you wish) and peach/nectarine "ice cream" (just blending frozen fruit with plant milk or a vegan creamer). I should cook with peaches/nectarines more often and not just obvious desserts. I like how the fruit contrasts with the other ingredients in this kind of savory dish and how all the ingredients differentiate themselves from each other. I also should cook with wheat berries more often; the chewy texture is inviting.

Although my family loved the dish, I think it could be improved. I knew salt wouldn't really complement the dish, but I wonder if fresh basil or celery seed (my wife doesn't like the taste of celery; I used to commonly use celery seed and should try it with her - I can't remember how she reacted to it) might work.

Another idea is to make some sort of a vegan "cheese" sauce, perhaps out of cashews. However, my whole family remarked at how creamy the dish was, so I don't think more creaminess is needed; also, the dish has no added fat and I don't see the benefit of adding creamy fat to it (on the other hand, it would be worth experimenting with vegan "cheese" chunks with skillet cooked fruit!). Maybe a small amount of chopped walnuts? I would have enjoyed some crispness in the dish.

At any rate, I should experiment with more fruit-savory dishes. I love the idea of going around the Power Plate, and should do that with main courses occasionally.

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