I need a crash course in natural disaster survival skills.

The earthquake a few days ago?  That was a close call.

By which I mean, I thought the girl sitting behind me in lab had moved her brand new super huge Mac desktop, which would obviously cause the entire lab (and the building across the street) to shake.  (Neurons – WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THERE???)

You see what I mean?  How can I survive a natural disaster if I’m not even aware that it’s happening?!?!?

I’m doomed.


I currently have approximately 48 hours until Hurricane Irene hits.

And if you think I’m battening down the hatches or holding down the fort or taking any number of hurricane prep measures/learning from my mistakes.

You’d be wrong.

I haven’t bought a single ounce of bottled water.  Not one canned good.

And last night I was up until ungodly hours baking a tart.  I need something to stress eat while the world falls down around me.  Ob.Vi.Ous.Ly.


I have, however, made exactly one good life decision in the past few days and that was to choose this recipe for spelt berries with roasted pepper sauce to celebrate Lidia Bastianich, who is next on Gourmet’s list of 50 Women Game-Changers.

While it’s addictive qualities can certainly be, at least in part, attributed to the vibrant flavors of fresh summer tomatoes and sweet savory roasted bell peppers, it’s also just one of those dishes that revels in it’s own simplicity, taking the most basic of Italian ingredients and turning them into a dish that you’ll want to eat all day every day all the time.

Proving (as if Eataly and her Italian restaurant empire weren’t evidence enough) that Lidia is quite the force to be reckoned with.  The kind of person who you want to have in your kitchen in such dire times as these.

Survival instincts – I’ve totally got ’em.

For more Lidia Bastianich today, check out these blogs:

Val – More Than Burnt Toast
Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan – The Spice Garden
Claudia – A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather – girlichef
Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette – Healthy Living
April – Abby Sweets
Katie – Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary – One Perfect Bite
Kathleen –Bake Away with Me
Viola – The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue – The View from Great Island
Barbara – Movable Feasts
Kathleen – Gonna Want Seconds
Amy – Beloved Green


Spelt Berries with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Serves 4 as a main dish, adapted from Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy


  • 2 bell peppers (I used purple bell peppers that I got from my CSA)
  • 4 cubanelle peppers
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 lb summer tomatoes OR 35-oz San Marzano plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 lb spinach
  • 1/2 lb spelt berries, wheat berries, farro, or barley (soak spelt or wheat berries the night before)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano
  • 2 tbsp parsley or basil


  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray the peppers with cooking spray or rub with oil.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Roast for 30 minutes, turning the peppers occasionally, until their skins are wrinkled and slightly charred.  Place the peppers in a paper bag or plastic container immediately upon removing them from the oven and close tightly.  Let cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the spelt berries.  Put in a heavy saucepan with 6 cups cold water, a bay leaf, and 1 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil, then set the cover ajar and adjust the heat to maintain a steady, gentle simmer.  Cook for an hour or until spelt is cooked through but still al dente.  Turn off the heat, pour off any liquid not absorbed by the grain and keep covered.
  3. While the spelt cooks, prepare the sauce.  Peel the charred skin off the cooled peppers.  Slice them in half lengthwise, discard the stem and scrape out the seeds.  Cut the peppers into 2-inch squares and let the pieces drain and dry in a sieve.
  4. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil into a big skillet.  Set over medium heat.  Scatter in the sliced onion, bay leaves, garlic clove and red pepper flakes.  Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes, until the onion begins to soften.
  5. Meanwhile, chop your tomatoes if using fresh and stir them into the pan.  Season with 2 tsp salt.  Bring sauce to an active simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Add the spinach to the pan and cook until wilted.
  6. Toss the raisins into the simmering sauce.  Stir in the spelt .  Season with another tsp of salt, or more to taste.  Gently stir in the cut pepper pieces.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until the spelt is hot again.  Turn off the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese, and top with basil.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

I am submitting this to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted this week by Rinku of Cooking in Westchester.

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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86 Responses to Spelt Berries with Roasted Pepper Sauce

  1. All kidding aside, stay safe during the Hurricane and start preparing! This does look delicous tho!

  2. I am loving this, Joanne… but the raisins? Not so sure about that…

    For me, the earthquake… a shaking microscope… why is my staff moving it so much? Wait, it’s an earthquake! 🙂

  3. This looks amazing! I’m kinda freaked out about this whole hurricane thing… Going to stock up on water (…and cookies?)after work today.

  4. OohLookBel says:

    I don’t know what some of the ingredients in this dish are (spelt berries?) but it does look good, as usual. The plump garlic in the bag are adorable. Hope the hurricane is a fizzer 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    People who live around me say that they felt the Earth quake…my hubby excluded. He had no clue. Me? I was driving so I have an excuse. I think. We haven’t taken any preparations for the storm either. I made soup. Does that count? About your Spelt berries here, they look fantastic! I’m pretty sure that this carnivore could be a vegetarian eating the food you prepare and dazzle us with day after day. Take care and stay safe this weekend! Candace

  6. My sister in Virginia thought it was her powerful washer in the rinse cycle. My friend in Virginia thought she was just dizzy. Seriously, keep safe!!

    Oh, and the recipe looks good. Save some just in case.


  7. Elizabeth says:

    I have an intense love for whole spelt. It will always remind me of being in Italy.

  8. Sam says:

    Looks delicious! I really didn’t sleep last night because I was thinking about how I need to go buy bottled water. We’re thankfully out of the flood zones, but who knows what else could happen. I will likely be spending the day stress baking after I finish up the emergency shopping. Nothing like Peach-Ginger Muffins to make you feel safe during a hurricane, right?

  9. Stay safe joanne!! stress eating..raising hand!! great dish, I love lidia and fav pbs show!!

  10. Pam says:

    Take care of yourself!! Go get some supplies! And thanks for posting this, I love spelt.

  11. Viv says:

    haha you’re a smart girl im sure you have all the survival skills you need! 🙂 take care though, so many natural disasters these days 🙁 stay safe and hope u do get some bottled water too haha.

    first time ive seen spelt berries! such wholesome and tasty bowl of vege goodness! i don’t mind the absence of meat!

  12. Lets hope the cyclone goes away unnoticed. So many different and interesting flavours in one dish.

  13. Gloria says:

    Look georgeous Joanne, gloria

  14. Joanne, That stew looks great. I didn’t know what to expect from the title until I saw the photos, but of course, yummy comforting stew with berries! Love it!

  15. Those new Macs are big. I can see how you would be confused. 🙂 Hope the storm doesn’t hit your area too hard.

  16. Julie says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever had spelt, but this whole dish looks wonderful. I hope Irene is not being too nasty up there!

  17. That Girl says:

    I’ve been through every natural disaster but a tsunami, but y’all have me beat doing it all in the same week.

  18. brocstar says:

    Good luck this weekend! If all else fails, grab your teddy bear, that tart, and run for the bathtub until is passes.

  19. I haven’t tried spelt yet, but every single other ingredient here looks wonderful! I’m sure the combination was delicious.

    Stay safe this weekend, girl. Keep us posted. Oh yeah, and go buy some water already! Or at least fill a few pitchers. 😉

  20. Cooking (or baking) is always the best solution! Stay safe Joanne! ?

    Camila Faria

  21. I haven’t prepared for the hurricane either. Unless you count stocking up on booze.

  22. Kim says:

    I’ve always wanted to cook with spelt berries, but I’ve never found them anywhere. This looks amazing, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Lydia. Have you been to Eataly yet?

    I hope you have time to grab some water and other goodies before Irene hits. That way you can just stay put and be safe!

  23. Miriam says:

    The food looks great! Good luck with the storm *hug* [email protected]Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

  24. This looks so hearty and healthy, Joanne. Perfect food for the amazing storm we’re having here in Germany – huge hail and torrents of rain. 🙂

  25. Tasha says:

    I was looking pretty foward to the meal we have having tonight until reading this post. Now I have food envy. This sounds so good to me. I’d love to try it with barley!

  26. Swathi says:

    This looks delicious and healthy, I am seeing splet berries for the first time. Regarding hurricane, try to be safe, load lot of battery as power is one going to go first, then water pressure so store as much water possible. You can also store water in bath tub for rest room activities. Some time natural gas line will be closed as they worry about breaking lines. Keep lot of canned food, keep your fridge at maximum high and open minimally. If you have generator that will be good, other wise hand held fans work. Most annoying is raining and noise that wind makes, it may feels like breaking the windows and doors. These are are my experience from Hurricane IKE which slammed here. Hope I am not scaring you. Try to stay away from windows and find a good place in closet.

  27. Foodycat says:

    I’ve never tried spelt berries! Hope Irene isn’t as fearsome as expected.

  28. Lora says:

    You had me at spelt berries which would be dinkel berries in German/English which sounds like… Sorry! never mind.

    Love this and the roasted pepper sauce. Yum!

    Not buying water either. I am too much of a jaded NYer at heart.

  29. You definitely did this recipe justice. Please stay safe with Irene on its way!

  30. Katie says:

    This could be a go-to dish this winter! Those shavings of parmesan on top look just delicious.

  31. What a great end of summer dish! I am so excited to make it 😀 Thanks for sharing!

  32. Pam says:

    I’ve never had spelt berries before. This dish looks flavorful and tasty! Stay safe during the storm!!

  33. Jeanette says:

    Seems like we’re having one natural disaster right after the other…I stocked up on some soups, bread, beans and fruits. Figure I can throw something together. A flashlight or two would also be helpful, but the stores were all sold out, no D batteries either! In any event, this Spelt Berry dish looks awesome and leftovers would be good during the hurricane.

  34. I think I’d get to the store soon! I hope Irene isn’t as nasty as they’re saying by the time it gets there. Maybe you made a big pot of this wonderful dish of Lydias? It does look delicious and right up that healthy alley.

  35. Kathy says:

    I’ve never had spelt berries before but, they remind me of wheat berries. I know I would love this dish…anything with grains is a friend to mine! Nice post…stay safe!

  36. I haven’t heard of spelt berries. Very interesting recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Reeni says:

    Lidia has never let me down! This has so many wonderful things going on I don’t know where to start! I have never seen spelt berries. Keep safe!

  38. kyleen says:

    I’ve always wanted to try spelt berries; they sound so healthy. Beautiful pcitures, everything looks so vibrant and vegetable-y.

    The morning the earthquake hit, my friend and I were joking about what would happen if we experienced an earthquake while trapped in the subway. Imagine how freaked we were when we found out that there really was an earthquake in the States. Good luck with those survival skills.

  39. This looks like a very healthy salad!

  40. Amy says:

    Hi J – I have had THE MOST EMOTIONAL WEEK EVER. Who knew Kindergarten would be so hard? Think twice before having kids…or be prepared to have your heart ache. And oh, I’m sick. Sickity sick sick sick.

    Anyway, I haven’t disappeared. Just don’t have the energy to read. Or do much of anything 🙁

  41. I heard about the earth quake and u & Chaya were the first to cross my mind , in my heart i knew u guys would be fine!
    I dont know if we find spelt berries around here but wheat berries , yeah!
    Have never had anything like this and would be very interesting to try!

  42. bellini says:

    I love how you’ve incorporated healthy eating into all of these challenges Joanne.

  43. marla says:

    Great healthy recipe girl. I am sure it will help you survive any natural disasters 😉

  44. This sounds terrible, but looks mouthwatering delicious! Now go buy some water and batten those hatches.

  45. Batten down the hatches, girl! And enjoy this hearty stew! Looks fortifying and sooo healthy!
    That Lidia! She sure knows how to put together a sustaining stew, as Pooh would say!

  46. Kristen says:

    I love the use of the spelt here. It’s a gorgeous dish.

    You will be in my thoughts this weekend. Hope you stay dry and safe.

  47. Mmm, delicious! Love the use of the spelt berries, definitely cucina povera.
    Be safe!
    Last time we had an earthquake I was in the basement. I was thinking a subway was going past. Then I remembered, I now live in the suburbs – we have no subways.

  48. I prepared for the hurricane by making sure I had the stuff to make rice krispie treats. I’m not sure why this seemed like good hurricane prep, but that’s what I bought. And toilet paper. Stay safe! And during the earthquake (my 1st experience ever I might add) my first thought was some weird paranormal experience. I gotta watch the news more or something…

  49. Corina says:

    This looks gorgeous – it’s definitely time I made something with spelt again.

  50. Spelt berries are something new to me. I got to find out more about it. You got some great photos of the dish. Stay safe!

  51. Pam says:

    This sounds great and I will be checking out the spelt berries. Be safe!

  52. newlywed says:

    I love Lidia! Can I confess that I am slightly looking forward to this weekend’s storm so that I can trap myself in the kitchen? Figuratively, hopefully not literally…

  53. Miranda says:

    I have never even heard of spelt berries, but the dish looks Amazing! Stay safe during the hurricane!

  54. A very healthy dish, I need to try the spelt berries some time soon.

  55. This looks real good, so healthy…..
    Stay safe during the Hurricane, If possible keep us posted. It sounds scary but we all are praying…

  56. Hi, I wanted to thank you for your invitation. We are sitting it out. Thankfully, I have married kids in both safe and questionable areas and we turned them down. I appreciate your offer. You’re not even a kid —- mine but I will be glad to share you with your parents.

    Never saw a spelt berry.

  57. Kerstin says:

    I love roasted red peppers – what a yummy sauce! I filled up a few of our large pots with water, does that count as being prepared? LOL

  58. I am back. To let you know that you are not the only one who goes on normally, I just baked a cream cheese coffee cake and a mango nut yogurt cake

  59. Martha (MM) says:

    Hi Joanne!! I “think” I’m finally back to blogging. I’ve missed you and your humor and your awesome recipes so much! Hope I’m able to keep up a little bit better now that the move is done and over with. Hope all has been well in your world ((hugs))

  60. teresa says:

    i’m basically sitting here waiting for irene to show it’s fury as i type. so far so good. i could use a bice bowl of this right now though, YUMMY!

  61. Beth says:

    This is a terrific feature your group participates in. And what a great recipe! Good luck with the storm….

  62. Julie says:

    hahaha i SUCKED at earthquake survival! i was sitting against a huge column at work and didn’t even think to move as the column was shaking behind me. don’t hang out with me in emergency cases

  63. Lyndsey says:

    Have not experience an earthquake yet myself, but as for hurricanes? Of course living in Florida. We have our hurricane preparedness box that we get ready each June and after November, we have plenty of tinned soups and tuna to use up!

    I am so glad you chose do do spelt berries. Believe it or not I have a bag sitting on my counter so to urge myself to find what to do with them! This one sounds perfect!

    Hope you can stay dry and keep the power on!

  64. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    I thought I was going though a dizzy spell (I actually get them quite often) and then realized the whole house was shaking. I then promptly tweeted and FB my experience….haha.

    This dish looks great. That roasted pepper sauce sounds amazing!

  65. Sippity Sup says:

    Of course I love Lidia. But I also love hearing New Yorkers talk about earthquakes. But Irene. She sounds serious. Stay safe. GREG

  66. A splendid dish! So mouthwatering.

    I hope that you are doing well and that hurricane Irene was kind to you.



  67. I love spelt berries, they make such amazing warm salads! This combination of flavours sounds just right!

  68. Raina says:

    You may not have batteries, but you have good I hope you made it through the hurricane safely.

    I love Lydia. She is one of my favorites. Every recipe of hers I have tried has been great. This looks delicious:)

  69. Deborah says:

    I hope you stayed safe during the hurricane! As long as I have a bowl of this, I think I could survive!

  70. myfudo says:

    I will certainly enjoy with this sumptuous recipe. I love it.

  71. Sonia says:

    Hey, This is looking so Gud and Appetizing… !
    A very well made post with beautiful pictures. I’ve bookmarked this special recipe of urs and wud love to give it a shot asap. Have a wonderful week ahead. Thanks & Regards, Sonia !!!

  72. Guess what’s happening with my CSA stuff this week? Thanks, Joanne!

  73. Chris says:

    You spelled spelled wrong, it’s not spelt like that.


  74. I am still reeling from disbelief that you’ve had earth quake in NY! Saw it live on TV when they were doing press release on DSK’s acquittal. I was woken up once in Taiwan by tremors in the middle of the night. The clothes hangers were rattling noisily. I laid on my bed for a while and went back to sleep…. that’s being extremely care-less!

  75. Carolyn Jung says:

    Spelt berries sound like fine survival food to me. I hope you come through the hurricane A-OK. Sending good thoughts your way. 😉

  76. Katie says:

    I love, love, love Lidia Bastianich! What a great sounding recipe. Hope you’re surviving Irene! :/

  77. Are you Ok? This wheat berry thing looks fantastic but I am much more concerned with your lack of survival skills! I guess st least you have the tart.

  78. I am glad you stayed safe this weekend. 😉 This looks pretty amazing–loving the spelt berries. Very warm and nourishing.

  79. Shannon says:

    love the addition of raisins!! delicious.

  80. Dana says:

    How have I never had spelt berries? I love all these flavors together – spicy and sweet and savory. I used to not like sweet things (like raisins) in my savory food, but I’ve learned the error of my ways. I hope you didn’t get too hard. Was thinking about you as I watched CNN.

  81. tigerfish says:

    Yes, I was thinking about you too when I watched The Weather Channel! But the fact that you cook such a wholesome homey dish, plus the carrot cake pancakes – I am glad you are alright.

  82. Lori says:

    Tarts should always take priority over emergency preparedness. I think that is a rule somewhere. 🙂 Love the red pepper sauce with this. Yum!

  83. roz says:

    When this post first came through my e-mail, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of ‘spelt-berries’, but then my curiosity got the best of me and I read (well, first the entire funny post) the recipe and thought, Darn, I’ve got this stuff to make this recipe. Oh and you’re right, Lidia is the bomb of Italian female cooks! Joanne, I started storing up bottled water after Katrina hit N.O., but never got beyond that. Since we felt a few residual tremors of that quake, it reminded me that I def’ly need to get on the stick and finish my stash of stuff!

    Great post, Joanne!

  84. That was quite a week for natural disasters. The day before the hurricane, as I (and everyone else)was buying flashlight batteries and water, the girl in the checkout behind me had three pints of Ben and Jerry’s- her hurricane supplies, she said. I think she had the right idea. 🙂 I need to find some spelt berries- this is a gorgeous dish!

  85. I’ve been getting a lot of tomatoes in my CSA recently and this is a perfect way to use them up! I love wheat berries and spelt berries yum.

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