Need easy vegan for Meatless Monday? Or maybe for hosting vegan friends? We have just what you’re looking for.
It’s a mix of cooked wheat berries, white beans, mushrooms, and fresh spinach. Add some herbs for extra flavor, and you have a luscious main dish that everyone at the table will like.
Healthy flavor. It’s what’s for dinner.
This dish uses white beans, but you could substitute a different bean if you like – chickpeas or lentils would be particularly nice. We made this dish with cooked corona beans because we had some in the freezer. For more information about corona beans, see our Italian Corona Bean Salad post.
We've used wheat berries before. See our Wheat Berry Chili post for more information about them.
Prep time for this dish is about 10 minutes. The wheat berries need about 45 to 60 minutes to cook, but you can make them ahead if you wish (see Notes). The sauté itself takes about 15 minutes.
This dish yields about 4 hearty servings. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- ½ cup uncooked wheat berries
- 1½ cups water for cooking the wheat berries
- 3 to 4 pinches of kosher salt (to taste; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- additional salt to taste (several pinches of kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- ~8 ounces mushrooms, sliced or quartered
- ~2 teaspoons za’atar spice blend or other herb of choice (see Notes)
- ~1½ cups cooked white beans (or one 15-ounce can of white beans, drained and rinsed)
- ~8 ounces fresh spinach (you could probably substitute frozen)
- a splash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar (optional but tasty)
- Add the wheat berries to 2-quart saucepan (for extra flavor, you may want to toast the wheat berries first; see Notes). Add the water, plus salt to taste. Bring the water to a simmer, cover the pan, then cook until the wheat berries are done (start checking after 30 minutes; they’ll probably be soft, but still quite chewy, at about 45 minutes – total cooking time could be anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes). As the wheat berries cook, check the pan from time to time and add water if necessary. (You can cook the wheat berries ahead of time; see Notes.)
- When ready to complete the dish: Place a large frying pan over medium stovetop heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is heated (it’ll shimmer; about 15 seconds), add the minced shallot. Season to taste with salt, then sauté for 1 minute. Add the chopped mushrooms. Add additional salt to taste, along with the za’atar seasoning. Sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add the cooked (or canned) beans and the cooked wheat berries, along with any cooking liquid that remains with the wheat berries (this should be about ½ cup). Stir the mixture to combine, then cook for 5 minutes. Taste, then adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Add a handful of spinach. Stir to incorporate, then keep adding spinach until all of it is mixed with the mushrooms, beans, and wheat berries (the spinach will reduce in volume considerably as it cooks). Cook until the spinach is just tender (2 minutes or so).
- Taste the dish, then add a splash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar if you like (see Notes). Serve and enjoy.
- The flavor of wheat berries is understated, but they absorb other flavors beautifully. If you want to give wheat berries more flavor of their own, you can toast them: Just spread the wheat berries out on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven at 350° F for about 10 minutes before cooking.
- You can cook the wheat berries a day or two ahead of time, then refrigerate them until ready to use. Sometimes we cook a big batch of wheat berries, divide them into containers, and freeze them.
- We don’t usually rinse wheat berries before cooking, but do so if you prefer.
- Our usual practice when cooking wheat berries is to use 3 measures of water for each measure of wheat berries. We add a bit of salt to the cooking pot to season.
- You could increase the amount of dried wheat berries in this dish to ¾ cup if you prefer. If you go that route, you’ll need to increase the amount of cooking liquid to 2¼ cups.
- Za’atar is particularly popular throughout the eastern Mediterranean region. The term “za’atar” refers to both a family of herbs and a spice mixture. Za’atar blends usually contain thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, and other seasonings.
- We’re using a commercial za’atar spice blend for this dish (the kind you’ll typically find at the grocery store).
- But any herb you fancy will probably work in this dish. Thyme pairs especially well with mushrooms. Fresh rosemary would also be delightful. And you could add some chopped parsley to the dish right before serving.
- This dish doesn’t contain a lot of salt. So we often add a splash of acid (in the form of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar) right before serving to brighten its flavor. Plus, we always have salt and black pepper on the table for those that want to add them.
- Speaking of salt: We use kosher salt for cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Nice flavor!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “You really stepped up to the plate when you created this dish.”
“Wish the baseball owners and players would do the same,” I said. “So far, their negotiations have been a rain out.”
“You’d think they’d be more on the ball,” said Mrs K R. “Coming off a pandemic, and with a bloody war in Europe, they might want to rethink their priorities.”
“Yup,” I said. “But instead, it’s been no hits, no runs, all errors.”
“They’ve just been pitching curves at one another,” said Mrs K R. “So everybody is striking out.”
And they’re throwing beanballs at the fans.
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