Rye berries are, like oat groats, the whole-grain version of their respective flour or meal. This was my first encounter with rye berries after reading Maria Speck sing their praises in “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals,” and I have to say, I found them more or less indistinguishable from farro (emmer wheat) in appearance, taste and texture. Which isn’t to say they’re not worth using if they’re readily available, but I’m guessing you’ll have an easier time finding farro. In any case, the flavor of the sausage and tomatoes against the texture of the whole grains is the star in this risotto-like dish, but most things are interchangeable—different sausages, different types of tomatoes, different types and amounts of liquid—so feel free to use whatever you happen to have on hand. If I made this again, I’d probably bake it instead of cook it on the stove, so if anyone tries this, let me know how it turned out.
Makes 2 servings (each person gets seconds).
• 3/4 cup rye berries or farro: 75 cents
• 1 1/2 links Andouille, Spanish chorizo, or other spicy garlic sausage, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced crosswise: 85 cents
• 1 14-oz. can petite diced tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups fresh diced tomatoes: 93 cents
• 2 T tomato paste (I keep a block in the freezer and cut pieces off as needed): 25 cents
• 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped: 80 cents
• 1 tsp sugar: 3 cents
• 1 onion, chopped: 25 cents
• 2 garlic cloves, minced: 2 cents
• 2 bay leaves: 1 cent
• 1 tsp powdered cumin: 3 cents
• 1 tsp dried oregano: 3 cents
• salt & red pepper flakes to taste: 3 cents
TOTAL: $3.98/2 = $1.99/serving
Combine the rye berries with 1 1/2 cups water or broth (I’d highly recommend broth, but I couldn’t afford for this meal to be over $2, so I used water) in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 50 minutes.
ALTERNATELY, add the uncooked rye berries and sauté with the onions, then add 2 cups broth when you add the tomatoes and sausage, cover, and bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.
Brown the sausage in medium soup pot with lid on medium heat. Remove to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. There should be about 1 T oil in the bottom of the pot; if not, add a little oil or bacon grease to make up the difference. Cook the onion until translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, a small pinch of pepper flakes, and a big pinch of salt, stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook until it’s starting to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes or can of tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, sausage, and cooked rye berries. Add just a little bit more broth or water (again, I highly recommend broth), bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.
(You can see in the picture of the finished bowl at the top that I added WAY too much water. Do not add more than about 1/2 a cup.) Adjust seasonings and serve.