July 10, 2012

Rye Experiment #1

Everywhere I looked for instruction on how to prepare rye berries either called for hulled rye or didn't specify. I decided to ignore that factor and plunge ahead. (Jon, the hubbers, cut and threshed a bit of our landlord's rye by hand, seen here.) I soaked 1 cup of rye berries in water for about an hour, skimmed off the floaters (mostly chaff), and rinsed it well.
Put the 1 cup rye berries in a heavy pot with 4 cups water and brought it to a boil. Luckily the heat wave broke, so it was only 75 degrees in the kitchen when I turned on the stove top.
Once the water came to a full boil, I turned down the heat and covered the pot. This is a shot through the glass lid as the rye simmered gently. It continued to simmer for nearly an hour and a half. I kept testing it until I found the texture to be pleasing. There was still water in the pot to be drained off.
The cooked rye turned into rye berry pilaf with fennel seasoned baked tofu. The tofu was intended as croutons for Caesar salad, but it seemed like it would be better on the pilaf. And it was pretty darn good. The pilaf consisted of diced onion, celery, carrots, and garlic with raisins, salt, and pepper. Threw the cooked rye in at the end and heated it through. The tofu croutons are from the Caesar salad recipe in Moosewood Simple Suppers.
The rye berries had a mild, slightly nutty flavor and a pleasantly chewy texture. Not as soft as rice, there was a little tooth resistance to it. The whole dish paired quite well with traditional Caesar salad (well, close to traditional, I use vegetarian egg-free, anchovy-free dressing) . The crunch of the romaine lettuce and tang of the parmesan were a good accompaniment to the taste and texture of the pilaf.

Oh, the rye more than doubled in bulk through the cooking process. I didn't measure it, but I'd guess the 1 cup dry berries expanded to somewhere between 2.5 and 3 cups cooked rye.

If the next couple of posts seem out of the ordinary, please send a doctor. Rye can harbor ergot, a fungus that causes hallucinations. In fact, it is suspected that the Salem witch trials were prompted by the strange symptoms of, then unknown, ergot poisoning.

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