Wheatberry Garbanzo “Paella”
A warning to you paella purists: this recipe will disappoint you. There is no seafood, no sausage or chicken and—wait for it—no rice in it. If this recipe were a movie, it wouldn’t be a “true story” or “based on a true story.” It’d be “kinda-sorta loosely inspired by a true story.”
Then what is in it, you ask? Plump, chewy wheatberries. Delicate leeks and smoky roasted peppers. Briny capers, fragrant saffron and—one of my favorite kitchen partners—a generous helping of wine.
Though I tried my best to ruin this dish by 1) soaking the chickpeas and ignoring them in the fridge for a week before cooking them, 2) spilling half of them on the floor when I finally got around to preparing them, 3) drinking most of the wine last night and 4) purchasing a weird, cheap bulk version of saffron instead of the real-deal, fancy pants kind, it still insisted on tasting wonderful. The myriad of textures and distinct flavors call for focused, mindful eating—don’t rush through the meal and miss them!
Wheatberry Garbanzo “Paella”
Adapted from The Post-Punk Kitchen
Serves about 4
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup wheatberries
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 leeks, white and green parts only, sliced into ¼ inch rings and washed well
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay is great)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 roasted red peppers (I used jarred), chopped
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons capers
Fresh black pepper, to taste
2 cups drained, cooked chickpeas (or 1 15 oz. can)
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Preparing the wheatberries and saffron threads:
Submerge wheatberries in water in a 2-quart pot (water should cover the wheatberries by about two inches), cover and bring to a boil. Let boil for two minutes, then remove from heat and let steam for an hour. Drain and set aside.
Place the saffron threads in a coffee mug (I contained mine in a tea ball), then pour 1/2 cup of boiling water over them, cover and let steep for an hour. Drain the water and press against the saffron with the back of a spoon to crush it slightly, bringing out its strongest flavor.
Preparing the paella:
In a large pan, saute leeks in 1 tbsp olive oil with a pinch of salt for about seven minutes, then transfer to a plate and set aside.
In the same pan over medium-low heat, saute garlic in 2 tsp olive oil for about a minute. Add wine, oregano, thyme, salt and saffron threads. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil and allow the mixture to reduce for about three minutes.
Return heat to medium. Stir in the cooked wheatberries, leeks, tomato paste, roasted red peppers, bay leaves, capers and black pepper. If sauce has reduced too much, add a cup of water. Let cook about seven minutes, stir in the chickpeas and cook an additional seven to eight minutes. Mix in the chopped parsley or cilantro and lemon juice, then remove from heat.
Allow the paella to sit for about ten minutes while the flavors marry, then remove bay leaves and taste for salt. If you’re not starving yet, this dish tastes even better after another hour or so, though it’s delicious immediately, as well.
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