Radiant Rye

A staple cereal and bread grain in Northern Europe and Russia is catching on in the States.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MEGAN GORDON

I never was one to plan meals — until I had a baby. In fact, I felt bad for people who did meal-plan, wondering how it all really worked: What if you didn’t feel like tacos on Thursday? How did you know what you’d want to eat on any given night?

It turns out that when you’re in the thick of parenting a small person, details like what your heart truly desires for dinner aren’t nearly as important as just getting everyone fed and happy. I get it now. But that doesn’t mean you automatically have to dumb down cooking or throw in the towel.

For me, fitting whole grains into the mix has always been important, and introducing new flavors and textures to our son has been exciting to witness. But the one thing I’ll say is that it requires some planning: Many grains take almost an hour to cook, which, for most of us, can be a challenge on a weeknight.

Of course, with that challenge comes solutions, like cooking your grains in advance. This has been my approach with rye, an often neglected, slow-cooking whole grain, but one that’s a real pantry powerhouse.

A staple cereal and bread grain in Northern Europe and Russia, rye isn’t as widely popular here in the United States, but I’ve begun to see it on more and more restaurant menus and in magazine spreads. And for good reason: It’s filling and makes a wonderful breakfast cereal or base for a whole-grain bowl. Rye has an almost tangy flavor and is a great source of fiber, so it keeps you feeling full for a good chunk of the day.

Baking with rye flour can get a bad reputation, as people often equate the results with dense, dark breads or dutiful crackers. But baking chewy cookies, airy cakes, and tender pies are absolutely possible using rye flour, and I’ve come to rely on it for a lot of my seasonal baking. Because it has such a pleasant and mild flavor, rye pairs really well with bigger, bolder flavors like chocolate and espresso or jammy fruits and stone fruits.

I know we’ve got some time before we see stone fruit in the market, but a girl can dream. And in the meantime, while we wait, you can find me meal-planning at the kitchen table, relishing in the fact that it’s still light outside at 6 p.m. Finally.

Smoked Salmon Rye Berry Bowl with a Creamy Caper Sauce

A vibrant, healthy, springtime bowl that leaves you satisfied and energized, this recipe comes together quickly if you cook the rye berries and prepare the pickled onions in advance. I cook the grains the day before (or even the weekend before) I make this salad, and I always make the quick-pickled onions up to a week in advance. Then I’m just chopping veggies and dressing the salad, and dinner is on the table.

This recipe calls for Persian (or English) cucumbers, as they have a thin skin and very few seeds, so you don’t have to peel or fuss with them. You’ll end up having some leftover pickled onions, which is great for all the future salads and grain bowls in your life.

Start to Finish Time: 75 minutes | Serves: 4–6 (4 as a main dish; 6 as a side)

For the Quick-Pickled Onions:

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)

 

For the Creamy Caper Sauce:     

  • 1 small garlic clove, thinly minced
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more to top
  • pinch kosher salt
  • pinch fresh ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup capers, drained and rinsed

 

For the Salad:

  • 1 cup whole rye berries (I think you should keep the grams in for the grains)
  • 1 Persian cucumber, seeded, halved lengthwise, sliced into 1/2-inch half-moon pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 5 small red radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced, then sliced into matchsticks (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 fennel bulb, halved, cored, and chopped into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus more to top
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 ounces smoked salmon, torn into bite-sized pieces

 

Make the Quick-Pickled Onions: Place sliced onion in a small bowl. Bring vinegar, sugar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to ensure they’re mixed well. Pour over onion slices and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain onions before using. Note: can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Keep leftover onions covered and refrigerated along with the vinegar mixture. .

Start the Salad: Place the rye berries in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of salted water. Over medium-high heat, bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the grains are tender and chewy, 50–60 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain away any excess water, and set aside.

Make the Creamy Caper Sauce: Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, yogurt, olive oil, horseradish, apple cider vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper. Stir in the capers and set aside.

Finish the Salad: In a large salad bowl, fold together the rye berries, cucumber, radishes, fennel, parsley, chives, and salt. Chop 1/4 cup of the quick-pickled onions, and fold them in. Dress salad with the creamy caper sauce. Carefully fold in the smoked salmon. Serve in shallow bowls, topped with additional chopped chives and dill. Leftovers can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 4 days.

Soft, Salted-Rye Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

There’s something about baking a skillet cookie that beckons, “Pull up a chair, and pull out a spoon!” For that reason, this is a great recipe to make if you’re having friends or family over for dinner and you want a simple, humble, yet delicious dessert that everyone can either take little nibbles of or slice off more civilized wedges. Either way, you’ll have a roomful of happy people. Here, the rye flour adds a slightly earthy flavor and aroma, which always works well with dark chocolate.

Serves: 8 | Vegetarian | Start to Finish Time: 75 minutes

Ingredients

  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I think we should keep the grams here, too, in case people want to make substitutions)
  • 3/4 cup rye flour (We need to keep the grams here)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or wafers (or semisweet if you prefer)
  • flaky sea salt (like Maldon) to top

 

Recipe

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10” cast-iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using electric hand beaters), beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth and combined, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed with a rubber spatula.

Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda, and salt. Working slowly, add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and beat on slow until smooth.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the mixture into the prepared skillet. Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the pan. If your hands are sticking to the dough, spray a little cooking spray on them (or coat them with a little olive oil or butter) to help. Sprinkle the top with flaky salt.

Bake 20–22 minutes, or until the outer edges are golden brown. The cookie will firm up as it cools.

Let cool in the skillet for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle additional flaky salt if desired. (I always do!) Once cool, slice into 8 wedges and serve.


Megan Gordon is a recipe developer, culinary educator, and author of Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons. She writes regularly for magazines and websites including Simply Recipes, The Kitchn and Recipe.com, as well as on her own blog, A Sweet Spoonful. When not writing about food, Megan teaches cooking classes and consults with small food businesses and brands.

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