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Posted Aug 27 2009 11:38pm

This is one of those dishes that makes me want to hoot and holler. It is at once healthy, hearty, and preposterously tasty. Moreover, when properly assembled, the dish miraculously amounts to so much more than the sum of its parts.

I make this dish several times a year, an unusual act for a passionate cook such as myself. Yet I persist because it never fails to deliver. With a perpetually voraciously hungry man in the house, I try to keep a steady supply of one-dish wholesome, yet substantial meals on hand; they must be easy to transport, quick to reheat (and less susceptible to the havoc office break-room microwaves wreak on food), and succeed in satisfying the cravings of a cave man.

However, though a seasonal staple in my repertoire, rarely do I replicate this dish entirely; leaving well-enough alone has never been my strong suit. Though walnuts, tossed with a liberal dash of walnut oil and a pinch of sea salt, add an addictive crunch to an excellent concoction, I’ll sometimes substitute them with Rancho Gordo Christmas Lima Beans for a complete vegetarian meal. With my unwavering loyalty towards bacon, I sometimes sauté the cabbage with smoky, maplely (inventing adverbs is my strong suit), crispy lardoons; rye, cabbage, and pork are a classic, divine pairing. And, if caraway is not your thing, I would reach for toasted, crushed cumin seeds instead.

RYE is thought to have originated in the Asia Minor, where its undemanding nature granted it reign over the more finicky cereal grains like wheat and barley, especially in arduous mountainous regions. Able to germinate in freezing temperatures and harsh conditions, rye bestows its hearty, warming energy upon any who consume it (marathon runners and body builders take note). Rye’s nutritional profile is similar to that of other cereal grains – it’s high in vitamins B and E, iron, fiber, protein, and trace minerals. It contains phytic acid, and so should be soaked overnight before cooking. Store rye berries in a sealed container in a cool, dark, dry cupboard.

CARAWAY SEEDS have a truly peculiar, potent flavor, of which I’m quite fond. They are powerful carminatives, aiding in the relief of digestive disorders, cramps, ulcers, and even parasites. For use as medicine, the small, dark brown seeds can be chewed or infused into simmering water as tea. If you happen upon the CARAWAY ROOT, cook it as you would carrots – roasted, steamed, caramelized, or pureed.

For information on the CABBAGE FAMILY, click here.

APPROXIMATELY 6 SERVINGS This grain dish is hearty and delicious. The rye berries are chewy and deeply nutty, the cabbage sweet, and the mustard perfectly pungent. Using a high-quality Dijon mustard is important; each grain becomes bathed an unctuous, deeply savory sauce. This dish is great as a vegetarian, one-dish lunch or dinner, and as a side to roast pork.


1 cup rye berries
3 cups filtered water or vegetable stock
2 cups raw walnuts
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons caraway seeds, toasted over medium heat until fragrant
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon walnut oil
2 teaspoons unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, or to taste
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, duck fat, or lard
2 medium red onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, green germ removed and minced
5 cups shredded Savoy or Napa cabbage
¼ cup chopped parsley
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

NOTES The rye berries in the recipe requires overnight soaking.


1. Heat a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the rye berries and toast for approximately 5 minutes, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. When the berries have darkened considerably and a nutty aroma fills the room, pour them into a strainer and rinse well with cold water to arrest cooking. Return berries to the cooled pot; cover with 2 ½ cups water or stock and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring the rye berries and soaking liquid to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and allow the rye to simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Add sea salt and pepper to taste; allow to simmer for 15 minutes more, or until the berries are tender and the liquid is absorbed.
3. Meanwhile, spread the walnuts onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and place in the oven. Toast for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven, toss with 1 teaspoon walnut oil and a pinch of salt. Set walnuts aside.
4. Once the rye berries are tender, add remaining ½ cup of water or stock, honey, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and remaining 2 tablespoons walnut oil; set aside and keep warm.
5. Heat olive oil (or duck fat or lard) in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add chopped onion and garlic; allow to soften slightly, about 2 minutes. Add shredded cabbage, a generous pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and toasted caraway seeds. Stir to coat cabbage in the onions and oil; cover the pan and allow the cabbage to steam in its own liquid, about 6-8 minutes, or until tender.
6. Add cabbage, walnuts, and parsley to rye berries; stir to combine. Taste for seasoning; add more salt, cider vinegar, or mustard to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.
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