Tag Archives: casserole

Recipe: Wheat Berry Casserole with Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Mozzarella

22 Aug

It was a busy Saturday recently, filled with lots of garden work (me), garage reorganizing (my husband), and room cleaning/packing (youngest son, prior to departing for college). Dinner time rolled around and so did the realization that there wasn’t much food in the house. I had planned to cook that evening, except that I didn’t actually plan anything (a not uncommon occurrence). And seeing as I was still in my gardening outfit (ie, my old painting pants and shirt–the very ones my husband keeps threatening to burn), with streaks of dirt across my forehead, my enthusiasm for a quick trip to the grocery store was nonexistent.

Surely there was something in the cupboards/refrigerator/freezer/garden that could be pulled together for dinner. The freezer yielded some Italian turkey sausages. The refrigerator revealed lots of baby spinach that needed to be used immediately, mozzarella from a recent pizza night, and the Pecorino Romano cheese that always occupies a special spot. The cupboards contained onions, olive oil, and pasta, and the trusty garlic bowl on the counter was full. And there were (and still are) more tomatoes than I know what to do with in the garden.

I immediately envisioned a zesty penne-sausage dish–only to remember we had had pasta the night before. Shucks. I was willing to forget this fact, but the Greek chorus in our house probably would not. And then I saw the wheat berries I had recently bought, and an idea formed…. [Note: this can easily be made vegetarian by eliminating the turkey sausage and adding more veggies.]

Wheat Berry Casserole with Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Mozzarella

1 lb. fresh baby spinach (about 12 c.)
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1.25 lb. Italian turkey sausages, removed from their casings
3 c. cooked wheat berries (see Note below)
3/4 c. seeded and diced tomato (about 5-6 small Roma tomatoes)
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 c. grated mozzarella
1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Preparation

1. Cook wheat berries as indicated in the Note below; set aside.
2. Heat a skillet over high heat and add the spinach; cook until it has reduced in size and has released most of its liquid; remove from the skillet and drain, pressing as much liquid out as possible. Set aside.
3. In the same skillet, also over high heat, add the olive oil, then the onions. Cook until the onions have softened and are turning golden at the edges. Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes.
4. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink, breaking up clumps with a spatula. Turn off the heat. Add the reserved spinach and the wheat berries, and mix in well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Layer half the wheat berry/sausage mixture into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Repeat, and sprinkle the Pecorino Romano over the top of the casserole. (See photo below, taken halfway through doing the top layer.)

7. Bake casserole for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly golden.

NOTE: Cooking Wheat Berries
Wheat berries triple in volume when cooked. For this recipe, you will need 1 c. uncooked wheat berries. (I double that amount and save the rest of the cooked wheat berries for salads or other recipes later in the week.)


1 c. wheat berries
3 c. water, plus more as needed
1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube (ideally, without MSG)

Preparation

1. For best flavor, toast the wheat berries over high heat in a dry skillet (no oil), stirring constantly, until some of the berries are beginning to turn golden brown and the berries emit a nice, nutty aroma.

2. While the berries are toasting, bring the 3c. water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add the bouillon cube.
3. When the wheat berries are toasted, pour them into the boiling water and cook over high heat for about 50-60 minutes, adding more water as needed (no need to cover the pot, but keep an eye on it). When done, the berries will be al dente.
4. Drain the berries; there should be about 3 c. cooked berries.

Recipe: Light and Easy Cassoulet

29 Jan

A cassoulet is a slow-cooked one-pot meal, originally from the south of France. It typically includes an assortment of meats, sausages, duck confit, and white beans, topped off with crispy bread crumbs. In essence, it is a hearty bean-based casserole meant to stick to your ribs.  But delicious as it may be, duck confit can be hard to come by. And while I appreciate hearty dishes as much as the next person, I wanted to see if I could make an equally flavorful version that was just a tiny bit lighter, relied upon easy-to-find ingredients appealing to all members of the family, and took less than a full day to make. So, out with the pork sausages and duck confit, and in with some turkey kielbasa and diced chicken breast. This cassoulet is also fantastic the next day, when the flavors have melded and the beans have thickened it a bit more.

Light and Easy Cassoulet

2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 lb. turkey kielbasa sausage, sliced  lengthwise and diced into quarters
1 lb. chicken breast, cubed
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, diced (or 1.5 c. grated carrots)
3 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 (14-oz.) cans small white beans (cannellini), undrained (or one large, 1 lb. 13 oz. can, undrained)
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes with olive oil and garlic (or plain–see note below)
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano (or plain–see note below)
splash white wine (optional)
2 bay leaves
lots of freshly ground pepper

Preparation

1. Cook kielbasa in 1 tbsp. olive oil in Dutch Oven (or other heavy-bottomed pot) over medium-high heat until nicely browned. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink; remove kielbasa and chicken from pot.
2. Add the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil to the pot, followed by the onion, carrot, celery, and a sprinkle of black pepper. Cook until soft, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the savory bits remaining from the kielbasa and chicken. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Return kielbasa and chicken to pot; mix into the vegetables. Add tomatoes, wine (if using), and bay leaves, plus another dusting of black pepper. NOTE: if using plain diced tomatoes, sprinkle roughly 1 tsp. each dried basil and oregano over top of the tomatoes. Mix well, then layer beans on top.
4. Simmer on low heat for about an hour, stirring gently every so often.
5. Serve cassoulet with hearty bread and a salad.