Ambrosia of Wheat Berries, Fruit and Chocolate
Dolce di Grano

serves: 8-12 servings

In the culinary world today, dishes with whole grains are "in," but they have always been part of Italian regional cuisine, even as desserts. Put together from whatever grains and nuts were in the house, and minimally sweetened with available fruit, traditional desserts like this wheat-berry ambrosia are among my favorites. In that spirit, this recipe can be a guideline for your own creativity. This is a versatile and practical dessert, too. Prepare the mixture of wheat berries, dried fruit, and chocolate in advance, and refrigerate it. Let it return to room temperature before serving (though it is nice slightly chilled in summer). It's also great for a buffet with whipped cream or scoops of vanilla or chocolate ice cream on top.

1 cup wheat berries, soaked overnight
1 fresh bay leaf
2 cups pitted and halved fresh sweet cherries
1 cup dried apricots, cut in thirds
½ cup pitted dried dates, coarsely chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut in 1/4-inch chunks
1 cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
½ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons Saba
1 cup heavy cream, whipped


Drain the soaked wheat berries, and put them in a saucepan with 3 quarts fresh cold water and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, cover slightly ajar, and adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook until the wheat berries are tender but still slightly firm to the bite, about 40 to 45 minutes. Drain off any liquid that has not been absorbed, discard the bay leaf, and let the wheat berries cool.

Put the wheat berries, cherries, apricots, dates, chocolate, and hazelnuts in a large bowl, and fold them together. Sprinkle the cinnamon over them, and drizzle the honey and Saba on top. Tumble the mixture together gently to distribute the spice and sweetening throughout.

To serve: Scoop 3/4 to 1 cup of the mixture into a wine glass. Top each with a dollop of whipped cream, and serve immediately.