Shorter days and cooler nights have left me yearning for a good book, extra sleep, family time, and mostly–some warm, nourishing food to fill my hungry belly. Fortunately for me, a few weeks ago I rediscovered Liz Steinberg’s blog Cafe Liz, a vegetarian food blog all the way from Liz’s kitchen in Tel Aviv. I immediately started to bookmark all of the dishes I hoped to cook (or better yet, would be cooked for me). Think crispy, pan-fried potato and mushroom kubbeh, invigorating Persian herb soup, and tonight’s dinner: a wheat berry Hamin with sweet, slow-cooked winter vegetables.
I enjoyed prepping the meal early this morning. Piper sat nearby and watched a children’s show as I peeled and halved a large butternut squash, whose orange flesh invigorated me. I pressed the heel of my palm against our kitchen knife and into six cloves of garlic, the weight of which encouraged them right out of their skins. I chopped the fronds off of a bulb of fennel, and sat admiring the resulting heart shape for a while. I popped prunes into Piper’s mouth, calling them candies, and then returned to the cutting board to chop several into sweet little pieces.
The bottom of the slow cooker is lined with the wheat berries, on top of which the rest of the ingredients are poured and then drenched in a decent amount of water. The stew is left to cook long and slow–Liz suggests something like 12 hours! We were able to get away with half the cook time at a higher temperature, and could still taste the depth of flavor resulting from the long cooking process.
The resulting stew is gorgeous: the wheat berries hold their shape so well, and their slight chewiness is the perfect contrast of texture to the melt-in-your-mouth, marshmallow softness of the butternut squash, carrots, and fennel. The onions are completely caramel, and the garlic cloves have that mellow, roasted flavor (without the trouble). The only thing missing was a good glass of wine!
What has been the most comforting meal you have eaten lately?