Épeautre, also known as spelt, is an ancient red wheat that has long been popular in Europe, where it is favored for its nutty, rich flavor. An ancestor of modern grains, épeautre has been grown since 9000 BC and was also called the "wheat of the Gauls." It was the major grain of Europe until Roman times, then lost favor, replaced by modern strains of wheat.
In France, épeautre is enjoying increased popularity, and shows up in salads, in soups, as a stuffing for vegetables and it is also ground into flour. It is grown largely in Provence, at the foot of Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse, where it is harvested in late August and has become known as "the gold cereal" because of its golden brown grain. Épeautre is favored by those who are allergic to standard wheat. And it is almost always grown organically. Nutritionally, 3 ounces of the cereal provides enough daily protein for an average adult. It is low in gluten and rich in minerals, with 4 times the magnesium of brown rice, and 3 ounces supplies the equivalent of 2 glasses of milk.
Épeautre is available in health food stores or can be ordered through The Grain & Salt Society, telephone 1-800-867-7258 or on the internet at www.celtic-seasalt.com
It is no exaggeration to say that Patricia Wells cooks épeautre about once a week, either as a warm side dish, served like rice or as a warm weather side dish that might include bell peppers, shallots and parsley.
Delicious, Quick Side Dishes
1 cup épeautre or spelt (or substitute wheat berries)
2 cups red wine or white wine, chicken stock or water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
How to Make It
In a 1-quart copper saucepan, combine the épeautre, cooking liquid, bay leaves and teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the grains are puffed and tender. Let stand, covered, for at least 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and season to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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