Syrian Sliha aka Nutty Pomegranate Wheat Berry Breakfast Bowl

I got this cookbook, see?

Grain Mains cookbook

And I’ve been browsing its pages over the past couple weeks, filling my head with visions of barley mac n’ cheese, polenta coffee cake, and quinoa date bread.  There has been a mini-miracle as well.  Do you ever have those quietly lovely internal celebrations when you read through an enticing recipe and realize you presently have every ingredient it calls for? I do. I did! And so I made this.

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The cookbook titles this recipe Syrian Sliha.  According to the authors, Sliha is a dish eaten by Damascus Jews to celebrate a baby’s first teething… interesting, no?  It wasn’t so much the name of the dish or its backstory that grabbed me, but the beautiful array of colors and textures boasted by the gorgeous full-page photograph.

…and the fact that I auspiciously had every last thing on the somewhat exotic ingredient list.

pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts

This grain salad of sorts brings some serious flavor to the breakfast table.  Its lead character is soft white wheat berries*, a varietal typically used to make one of my favorite flours: whole wheat pastry.

soft white wheat berries

Wheat berries are satisfyingly chewy and slightly sweet with a hint of nuttiness which echoes the toasty pistachios, pine nuts and walnuts. Then of course come the toasted fennel seeds, lacing the dish with a haze of anise, the shredded coconut, lending tropicalness and texture, and pomegranate arils: the perfect juicy-tangy foil for all those rich nuts. Cinnamon, maple syrup, and coarse salt round out the closest thing your taste buds may ever experience to a full-on breakfast rock symphony in surround sound.

Oh please, don’t let me forget the yogurt.  After everything I just said, this dish is nothing without a very generous dollop of whole milk yogurt atop its colorful peak.  I’m not kidding. If you don’t have access to yogurt, don’t even make this.  Sliha on, Wayne!

Syrian Sliha with yogurt

*Wheat berries are fully intact wheat kernels (aside from the inedible hull) and are the most unprocessed version of wheat you can buy in the supermarket. Wheat berries, like many whole grains, are an excellent source of fiber and B vitamins.  They also contain some healthy fats, yeehaw!  Because of their toughness, wheat berries typically work best when soaked before cooking.  Anywhere between 8 and 12 hours of soaking in lots of room temperature water should do the trick.  I like to soak and cook a big batch of grains on the weekend to help me through busy weeknight dinners.

Syrian Sliha aka Nutty Pomegranate Wheat Berry Breakfast Bowl

Note: I altered “Grain Mains’” recipe by reducing the amount of nuts by half (for calories’ and economy’s sake) while bumping up the coconut and pomegranate.  I chose maple syrup in place of white sugar and toasted the fennel seeds and added them at the end rather than boiling them with the wheat berries as the original recipe suggests.

Ingredients:

1 cup soft white wheat berries, soaked for 8-12 hours, drained and rinsed

2 Tbsp fennel seeds

½ cup shelled, unsalted pistachios

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup pomegranate seeds

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 Tbsp real maple syrup

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp coarse salt, like kosher

plenty of plain whole milk yogurt for topping

 Method:

1. Dump the soaked and drained wheat berries into a medium saucepan and cover grains by at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the grains are just tender, about 50 minutes. The wheat berries should barely dance in the water while cooking. Drain the grains in a small-holed colander.

2. While the wheat berries cook, combine the fennel seeds, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Toast the nuts and seeds, stirring occasionally and guarding them with a watchful eye and alert nose, until they are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Pour the wheat berries into a big bowl, maybe the same one you soaked them in. Then stir in the nuts, seeds, pomegranate arils, coconut, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. Let the Sliha come to room temperature before enjoying (with a giant dollop of plain whole milk yogurt, that is!) or “store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for breakfasts (or snacks) in the week to come.” –Grain Mains

Syrian Sliha with yogurt 2

Sliha with yogurt

Sliha beauty shot with yogurt, so good

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Blissin’ out on Baked Oatmal

We’re hurdling toward the end of autumn.  I’m waist-deep in my new schooling, a couple of part-time jobs, and the joys of being a new wife. There aren’t many mornings when I’ve got time to concoct more than a couple fried eggs or a bowl of jam-swirled yogurt for breakfast.  Gone are the summer days when I would rise without an alarm clock, wander into the kitchen and get creative with my day’s first meal.   My camera is filled with photos of breakfasts past: French toast topped with smashed raspberries and basil, buckwheat waffles with sloppy strawberries sunk down in their squares, and cinnamon swirled baked oatmeal…

Oh, the baked oatmeal.

It’s the breakfast that keeps on giving.  You enjoy it once, arguably at its best right from the oven, and then it tamely sits in your fridge and offers itself as an after workout snack, a midnight treat, or an on-the-fly breakfast throughout the week.

Make it on Sunday evening, when it starts to get dark way too early.  It’s just the right time for comforting wafts of vanilla and cinnamon to rush to in and let you know that you’ll make it through another week.  That the holidays will be delightful, not stressful.  That shorter days mean longer nights to cuddle with loved ones and sip spiked eggnog and watch Office reruns. That sounds about right.

As I mention below, any kind of fruit will work in this forgiving dish.  Just make sure if you’re using frozen berries that you let them thaw (or microwave them if you’re impatient like me), and then drain off some of the juice.  Pear and apple would be really nice right around this time.  You could also dream of the tropics while tossing in pineapple chunks and dried mango.  Happy weekend!

Baked Oatmeal

Prep: 20 min     Bake time: 35-40 min

Serves 8- 10… or 1 or 2 for a week or so

Dry ingredients

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

½ cup raw pecans, roughly chopped

½ cup raw walnuts, roughly chopped

1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ cup raw cane sugar

¼ cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut

Wet ingredients:

1 ½ cups milk, any variety

½ cup whole milk yogurt

1 cage-free egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted

¼ cup maple syrup

Mix-ins and Toppings

2 bananas, sliced crosswise into ¼ in thick rounds

3/4 cup fruit of choice – I used frozen blue, black, and raspberries

Flax and/or sunflower seeds and more dried coconut for sprinkling

1 ½ tbsp more butter or coconut oil, melted

Method

Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter or coconut oil the inside of an 8-inch square glass baking dish.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

In another medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together the wet ingredients.

Line the bottom of the greased baking dish with banana slices. Top bananas with ½ cup of the fruit.

Pour the dry ingredients over the fruit, and then slowly drizzle the wet ingredients over the dry ones.

Smack the dish on each side a few times so milk mixture seeps down to the bottom and gets in all the oat-y crannies.

Scatter remaining fruit on top, then sprinkle with flax seeds, sunflower seeds and coconut.  For an extra sparkle, finish with a few pinches of coarse sugar.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is gorgeously golden and the oatmeal has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on the top and serve with a side of additional maple syrup and milk.