Sunday, February 7, 2016

Spelt- Knocking Out the Foodie Resolutions One Grain at a Time

I'm not even two full months in and I'm already working on clearing my second Foodie Resolution of The List. This time I'm trying another new grain. Well, new to ME, it's actually quite ancient. This time we're going to give spelt a test drive in the kitchen. What is spelt? It's a very old type of wheat. sometimes called dinkle wheat. In my quest to learn more about spelt I discovered that this grain was one of the most common food crops in medieval times, and older. These days it's found mostly in Europe- American farmers abandoned it in favor of the more common wheat used for bread and flour. It does grow well with a lot fewer chemicals and fertilizers however, so with any luck, American farmers will start to reverse that trend and grow what has to be healthier- anything with less chemicals used during the growing season is absolutely better for us.

If your diet is such that you avoid gluten, spelt is not for you. It is wheat, after all, and even though it's packed with protein, fiber and tons of nutrients, it's also heavy on the gluten, and can be ground into flour for baking just like plain ol' wheat. 

Hey, I cheated- I bought a package of already steamed baby
beets. It was easier and less messy.
The more we learn about whole grains the more we know we should be eating more of them, and spelt is a great choice. It's a hearty grain too, with more texture than rice, a bite similar to barley and a chewy nutty flavor. In fact, that nutty flavor and texture reminded me of wheat berries and got me thinking this grain deserves a prominent spot on the plate, like a main dish salad. If you have been reading along for any length of time, you know I'm a salad nut- I love making a big batch on Sunday and packing lunch dishes for 3 or 4 weekdays to take to work. Grains are perfect with crisp crunchy veggies and a little vinaigrette dressing, instead of a heavy mayo-based dressing, and sometimes a little cheese for even more heartiness.With a grain like spelt you can make these delicious salads all year long- just switch out the veggies to whatever is in season and fresh. Roasted vegetables, like beets and cubes of winter squash, also go wonderful in a warm salad toss, and fill you up with good things.

To start this dinner, get a good sized roasting chicken ready to go in the oven- generously spread the chicken, breast side up in a roasting pan, with softened butter. Season well with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice. Thyme is perfect for this dinner. 

Place the chicken in a 350 degree oven to begin roasting. Baste the chicken occasionally with the pan juices, and halfway through cooking, squeeze half a lemon over the chicken. Add the lemon half to the roasting pan- you can squeeze the roasted lemon over the cooked chicken at the end of roasting. Chicken should be roasted to an internal temp of 165 degrees.

Spelt with Roasted Winter Vegetables and Pecans

2 cups uncooked spelt
1 small bunch scallions
1 small butternut squash
6 baby beets
1/2 cup chopped pecans
big handful baby spinach leaves, rough chopped
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup pan drippings from roast chicken
salt and pepper
olive oil

To cook the spelt, rinse well, then combine with 5 cups water. 

Bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook over very low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed and grains are firm but tender. Drain off any remaining water and set aside.

Peel and cube the butternut squash. Toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and spread out onto foil lined baking sheet. 

Repeat with the beets. Season with salt. Place in the oven and roast the vegetables until just tender. Check after 15 minutes and keep checking every 5 minutes.

Slice the scallions and give the spinach a rough chop. 

In a large bowl combine the cooked spelt, the vegetables, the pecans, and toss. Squeeze the half lemon over and drizzle with the pan drippings from the chicken. Toss again, season with salt and pepper, and serve. 

This dish is so good and so filling. The hint of lemon goes so well with the richness of the chicken juices, and creates the perfect savory "dressing", coating the grains and vegetables perfectly. The sweetness of the beets and butternut squash really stands out, the pecans add a nice crunch and the spinach leaves bring even more fiber and a pop of green to the dish. The spelt is so protein-rich the leftovers are going to be a meal all on its own. The leftover chicken will get picked from the frame and tossed for a great lunch for the weekdays.


  1. I am definitely going to have to try spelt. I have seen it in the store but have not gotten any but your info and recipe made me want to buy some!

    1. So far, of all the grains I have tried, this is probably my favorite. The texture is awesome and it's SO hearty.