Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that whole grains are the current “it” food. I have no idea if they are the wonder food they are purported to be, as science doesn’t always have the best track record in the area of nutrition (remember margarine? low-fat diets?). However, I figure that eating a variety of foods close to its natural state is probably a good idea, so I’ll go along with it. Enter wheatberries.
Ina Garten’s Wheatberry Salad is the perfect “made-ahead” dish because it tastes better the longer it sits. I love the versatility of this salad, because you can of course serve it on its own as a side dish, or you can add a scoop or two to a large main dish salad.
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style
1 c hard winter wheatberries
1 c finely diced red onion (1 onion)
2 T olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, small-dice
1/2 yellow bell pepper, small-dice
1 carrot, small-dice
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Place the wheatberries and 3 cups of boiling salted water in a saucepan and cook, uncovered, over low heat for approximately 45 minutes, or until they are soft. Drain.
Saute the red onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.
In a large bowl, combine the warm wheatberries, sauteed onions, bell peppers, carrot, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the wheatberries to absorb the sauce. Season, to taste, and serve at room temperature.
The wheatberries have a chewy texture and slightly nutty flavor, while the carrots and peppers add some crunch and sweetness. This really is a great recipe to add lots of different vegetables to, so I’ll experiment more with it in the future.
The flavors really meld well. I would recommend using an aged balsamic and the best extra virgin olive oil you can get your hands on, as these two flavors really shine through. By “best” I don’t mean expensive, but I would recommend tasting the oil first to make sure you like the flavor; there’s a lot of variation in the olive oils out there.
If you want to make this dish but aren’t sure where to find wheatberries, check the bulk bins in the natural foods department of your local grocery store.