Shelled Wheat with Mushrooms and Feta is a great vegetarian pantry dish, flexible to what you have around.
Guys I had these pictures ready to go over a month ago. It’s weird the way this pandemic has made some people more productive and some of us it seems to have frozen. This isn’t entirely true as I have developed an entire new workout routine all out of a desire to get outside, so yay me, but everything else I seem to be struggling with.
I think I have also struggled with how to write about cooking (not baking) in a quarantine because let’s face it, we are all very different. We store (hoard) different things, we regularly store different spices, our freezers are either regularly empty or usually stuffed to the gills. We have different sized pantries. Sadly for those of us with a tendency toward hoarding, this entire coronavirus experience has only convinced us we were right to hoard all those weird gourmet items, much to our family’s distress. Because, well, it means we won’t stop. But it also means I feel awkward sharing what I am cooking, because I know a lot of you don’t have four bulging spice drawers and freezers full of exotic cuts of meat, all purchased before we ever heard the word Covid.
So about this Shelled Wheat with Mushrooms and Feta. I decided I would take an Ottolenghi recipe easily found on the internet, Bulgur with Mushrooms, Feta and Dill, (although I found it in Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook) and adapt it to what I had around. So you could see how I adapt to necessity if nothing else, and encourage you to adapt to your own necessity.
The first thing you should know is that I order mushrooms with every single grocery delivery. We just love them so much and I can add them to anything. I always get sliced crimini, in terms of what I am willing to order from a regular grocery store without being able to peruse them myself. And I had some beech mushrooms that were languishing in the back of the garage refrigerator. But if there is some other vegetable that sounds good to you? Just go for it.
The second thing you should know is that I had no dill (or fresh herbs). Of any kind, dried or fresh. So I threw some fresh arugula into it for that added fresh herb pop. Not because it tastes like dill in the slightest. And for the record I would love to have it with dill, but I was not going to refuse to make it over a lack of dill. Especially because this was actually at the beginning of the quarantine when I was panicking about everything and having trouble getting grocery deliveries scheduled. I just needed food on the table that my family would eat. And if you are wondering why I assumed this would work without dill (and it did, it was delicious), it is the fact that feta cheese and balsamic vinegar with caramelized onions are all strong enough to carry the dish.
I also did not have bulgur, but I did remember that I had something called shelled wheat from a Middle Eastern food brand that had been languishing in my pantry for forever. Bulgur is wheat that has been parboiled or steamed and then cracked, and as such cooks quickly. Shelled wheat is almost (it is pearled) as far from that as you can get and still be wheat, but the key point here is that it is wheat and it is appropriate for a grain bowl, which is essentially what this is. And I have nothing but time these days! So shelled wheat it was (which was delightfully chewy and I highly recommend trying it in the future if you don’t have any now). The lesson here is any grain works. Especially the ones that stay looser and more separate if that makes sense (versus, for example, oatmeal which cooks into a porridge). Farro and brown rice would both be especially good. Because the bulgur is cooked separately, any grain will work, you just need to follow the directions for amount of liquid needed and time to cook it.
I added sweet bell pepper because I had one that was going to go bad and because something about this pandemic has me wanting to add as much nutrition as possible into our meals. Which is kind of silly, but I am not alone as I hear that orange juice sales are going crazy for similar reasons.
Adapted from Ottolenghi: Simple
- 1 lb shelled wheat
- 4 cups vegetable stock (you can also use chicken but it will no longer be vegetarian)
- 4 cups water
- 4 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 t wild mountain cumin seeds, divided
- 4 smaller onions, sliced (or use 2 large onions)
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1.5 lbs sliced crimini mushrooms
- 6 oz beech mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 pinch dried thyme
- 1 sweet bell pepper, diced
- 2 T medium quality balsamic (not the cheap stuff but also not extremely expensive)
- 2 t urfa chile powder
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (I used a handful of arugula per serving because I had no dill or any fresh herbs)
- 4 oz feta, plus more for garnish
Cook the shelled wheat as though you were cooking pasta in the stock and water. Add water as needed. When the shelled wheat is chewy-tender, drain and set aside. Check the package for time, mine took around 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat with 1 teaspoon of the cumin seeds. Shake the pan occasionally, and when the cumin seeds are fragrant and browning (do not let them burn, cumin seeds brown quickly), add the onion with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the garlic. Keep cooking until the onions are darker and have caramelized. Transfer the onions to a plate or bowl.
Pour another 2 tablespoons of oil into the same pan, turn the heat to high, and repeat the roasting of the other teaspoon of cumin seeds. Then add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and cook for six to seven minutes, stirring often, until the mushrooms release their water and start to brown. Add the thyme and the sliced sweet bell pepper and keep cooking, stirring all the while, for another minute. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for 30 seconds; the vinegar should reduce and evaporate. Stir in the cooked shelled wheat and half of the caramelized onions. Also add half of the dill if you are using it. Stir in half of the feta cheese and half of the urfa chile powder. When everything is warmed through, remove the pan from the heat and taste for more salt.
Serve and garnish with the remaining caramelized onions, feta cheese, dill if using or the arugula. Sprinkle with urfa chile pepper. Drizzle with a tiny amount of extra virgin olive oil.
Hey guys: I used Burlap and Barrel's fabulous Wild Mountain Cumin and Urfa Chile powder in this recipe. On the one hand, please don't be afraid to make this with what you have on hand because these are hard times and no matter what it will be good. But you should know that Burlap and Barrel, my favorite place to get spices these days, is open and shipping, so if you can it is a fabulous time to stock up your pantry spices so you can make fun food with minimal effort. And I just love them, they don't even know I am saying this--I have ordered from them since the quarantine began.
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