wheat berries with caramelized onions, feta, and lentils

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I’m really looking forward to moving to New Mexico. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Philadelphia; any unhappiness I had here was my own deal and not a result of the location. But I am excited about having a fresh start somewhere.

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I am a little concerned about the grocery store situation. I have been majorly spoiled the last few years by always living near a Wegman’s. If you’re not familiar, suffice to say that it’s a great store, with a huge selection and high quality. When a recipe says that an ingredient can be found in “any well-stocked grocery store”, I’ve never had to worry about how I’d get a hold of it.

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The town we’re moving to, though, is small and isolated. It has just one grocery store. My initial explorations during our visit there over the summer indicated that it isn’t terrible but it isn’t great. I should be able to find, say, goat cheese, but only one type.

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So I’ve been trying to take advantage of the wide selection of my current store while I can, by buying random unusual ingredients that I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to find after the move. My plan was actually to buy farro, but I guess even Wegman’s has its limits because they didn’t have it. I almost went with quinoa, since it’s familiar and safe, but I managed to talk myself into trying wheat berries instead.

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Well, I don’t know about farro, but wheat berries are certainly delicious. They’re nutty, and the texture was chewy, not unpleasantly crunchy or mushy. The sweet caramelized onions were a great compliment, and then the salty feta was perfect on top of all of that. The whole thing was just so good, and I couldn’t believe how healthy it was to boot. I sure hope I can find wheat berries and feta after we move because I want to be making this meal a lot!

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One year ago: Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin Medallions

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Wheat Berries with Caramelized Onions, Lentils, and Feta (adapted a bit from Orangette; wheat berry cooking method from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

2-3 servings

You might not need a recipe here, because you’re just combining grains and lentils with caramelized onions and feta. If you already have favorite ways to cook grains, lentils, and onions, you should absolutely feel free to use those. In case you don’t, I’ll provide my preferred methods here.

You can probably skip the lentils if you don’t want to deal with an extra ingredient. Also, I haven’t tried it myself, but I don’t see why you couldn’t just add them to the wheat berries at the point when the wheat has 25 minutes of cooking left. Just make sure there’s enough water in the pot.  (Update 6/14/11: You can definitely cook the lentils in the same pot as the wheat berries. I’ve also used farro in this recipe now, which is convenient because it cooks in the same amount of time as lentils.)

I think you could use almost any grain here, as long as you adjust the cooking time. Quinoa would definitely be good (and would make this meal gluten-free).

¾ cup wheat berries
2 onions, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup lentils, preferably lentils de puy, picked over and rinsed
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
hot sauce (optional)
lemon wedges (optional)

1. Soak the wheat berries in water for at least an hour and up to overnight. Put them in a pot with enough water to cover by a few inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until they’re tender, 1 to 2 hours. Add ½ teaspoon salt once they’ve started to soften.

2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring somewhat frequently, until they just start to brown, about 8 minutes. Reduce to heat to medium-low and continue to cook and stir until the onions are evenly golden brown, about 20 minutes longer.

3. Put the lentils into a small saucepan. Add 3 cups of cold water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender but not falling apart, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain.

4. Combine the wheat berries, caramelized onions, lentils, and feta. Adjust the seasonings if necessary and serve with either hot sauce or lemon wedges, if desired.

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  1. It’s amazing how important grocery stores are. I hate changing stores because I hate not knowing where things are; I feel so silly wandering around and thinking, “this was in aisle 4 at this store.” Hopefully the new store doesn’t leave you too lost and, if anything, you have us bloggers who can hook you up with the goods 🙂

  2. I hate moving a losing a great grocery store. I guess if you can I would recommend stocking up! Although the great thing about this day and age is that you can always find stuff online. Even Amazon has a lot of great food items on their site.

    Now about this meal…delicious! I’m not sure if it’s healthy or not but it sure does sound healthy. Which is good enough for me:) My favorite part is the addition of the feta cheese….yum!

  3. This is my greatest fear as well! How could I continue to eat my hippie food without the grocery stores to back me up? There’s always the option of ordering online? I’m not sure of a specific website, but everything is sold online nowadays.

    Where is the nearest Whole Foods or other store in that vein? My closest Whole Foods is 25 miles away, which is way to far to go every weekend, but once every few months I’ll make a trip over there to stock up on bulk bin and pantry items. Hope you find something not to far that works for you!

  4. I can’t wait to make this – we always have sprouted wheat or rye berries in the house, and this would be a perfect pairing. So clever!

  5. Such a great healthy meal. Hope you have a good move to New Mexico.

  6. Amanda says:

    thanks so much for posting this! I just tried wheat berries for the first time last week and loved them (I substituted them for the quinoa in a 101 cookbooks recipe for broccoli pesto quinoa). Then I read that you could sprout them for increased health benefits, so I tried it, and that worked out great too! I used the sprouts in this recipe last night, and it was awesome. I just sauteed them for a minute or two with the onions, it was super quick. I can’t wait to use the leftovers as a sandwich filling with some diced avocado. Thanks!

  7. Whenever I cook wheatberries, I just do them for thirty minutes, close to the same time as for the lentils. They are nicely chewy and still fully cooked. You might try that as a variant.

  8. Too good dude! I liked it!!

  9. I love this! So healthy and yummy, got me hooked on wheat berries and I am certainly going to try other similar recipes.
    Thanks! (Btw – I love your blog 🙂