Rye berries are the new darling of whole grains

If you’ve cooked all the colors of quinoa and are ready for a shift, try rye berries, whole grains that are optionally ground into rye flour.

When you boil them, you get a powerfully nutritious whole grain with a nutty flavor and springy texture. It is an older crop that once grew throughout the region before being replaced by wheat, corn and soybeans. But thanks to interest in ancient grains – a natural progression for those looking for local, sustainable and authentic ingredients – rye is having its day.

Rye, like whole barley (not pearled) and the different varieties of heirloom wheat, provides many benefits to the farm: it retains topsoil, captures water, and harbors wildlife and pollinators. Planted in rotation, it breaks pest cycles and produces plenty of organic matter to enrich the soil. It also performs well in extremely stressful weather conditions. As more farmers adapt regenerative farming practices, cooks have more access to interesting, delicious and healthy whole grains.

Artisanal grains contain more protein, minerals and nutrients than white rice and pasta. Although they need more time to simmer in the pan, they do so on their own, without too much fuss from the cook. Plus, they can be cooked ahead and stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week, ready to toss into salads, soups, stews and pilafs. (It does not work with cooked white rice or pasta.)

What you can do with one whole grain, you can do with another. Although their nuanced flavors differ slightly, they all cook pretty much the same. When I’m looking for a simple, satisfying, and healthy dinner, I just go with the grain.

Rye and Sweet Potato Pilaf with Grilled Trout Fillets

For 4 to 6 people.

Note: This deeply flavored pilaf goes well with fish, beef or chicken. Vegans and vegetarians can add a cup of chickpeas to the mix for a protein bump. Find rye berries at local co-ops or online; farro and wheat berries work well too. By Beth Dooley.

For the pilaf:

• 1 1/2 tsp. rye berries, rinsed

• A generous pinch of salt

• 1 lb sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. rooms

• 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided

• Coarse salt

• 2 tablespoons. apple cider vinegar

• 1 tbsp. honey, or more to taste

• 1 bunch green onions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch slices. lengths, mostly white and light green parts

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the trout:

• 2 tablespoons. olive oil

• 1 1/2 to 2 lb skinless trout or walleye fillets

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 lemon, cut in half

To prepare the pilaf: Put the rye berries in a saucepan and add enough water to cover 2-3 inches. Add the salt. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pan and cook the rye berries until tender and plump, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Check the jar occasionally and add water if the rye berries seem dry. Drain and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of oil and a generous pinch of coarse salt. Spread the sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet and roast, turning occasionally, until crispy and caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey and remaining tablespoon of oil.

Place the sweet potatoes, green onions and rye berries in a medium bowl and stir in the vinegar-honey mixture, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

To prepare the trout: Film a large sauté pan with oil and set over medium-high heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper. When the oil is simmering, place the fish in the pan and sauté until lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the fish and continue cooking until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish.

Divide the pilaf on individual plates or a large serving platter and arrange the fillets on the pilaf.

Beth Dooley is the author of “The Perennial Kitchen.” Find it on bethdooleyskitchen.coMr.

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