Busy rearranging my kitchen cupboard, avoiding the not-so-fun things on my to-do list, I found a bag of left over wheat berries from one of the never-ending food box's I received last summer. You see, a food box a week for a total of twelve weeks, can become quite unruly. Falling to the bottom of the shelf, becoming tucked away behind the rice noodles and dried beans, I completely forget they existed - in my cupboard. Berries and other things that had become hidden in the tiny space behind the cupboard door, clearly the cupboard needed a rearrange. Excited by my new find, and a week long goal to fill up on super healthy foods, kale avocados and the like, I made a healthy serving of hearty crunchy wheat berry salad, knowing that the weekend will be filled with an ample supply of margaritas and Mexican food (cinco de Mayo).
Wheatberries or Wheat berries, chewy and nutty in nature, are whole unprocessed wheat kernels containing all parts of the grain, except the inedible outer hull which has been thoughtfully removed. If you were to take a hand full of dry wheat berries, grind them with a mortar and pestle into a fine powder, you are essentially left will whole wheat flour. If you have enough elbow grease and motivation, milling your own whole wheat flour and turning it into a loaf of whole wheat bread could be satisfying. Wheat berries are high in fibre, low in fat and calories, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Cooked wheat berries have a sweet, nutty, earthy flavor, with a texture similar to cooked barley. They are wonderful in salads, stews, and chili, or simply add some soy milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon for a sweet breakfast treat.
After a simple type into the keyboard, wheat berry recipes, a theme was noted - cranberries. This I can do. An afternoon of rearranging the cupboard, I was able to dig up a couple of bags of dried cranberries and some sliced almonds. I added some shallots, sliced celery, a sweet simple dressing of olive oil, garlic, balsamic, and maple syrup. My go-to salad dressing, perfect for all occasions. The amazing thing about this salad, is that the flavors settle in and improve over night. Meanwhile, we can sit in anticipation for the lunch that will be shared tomorrow. Overnight, the cranberries will become plump with sweet juices, each berry becoming coated with flavor. The magic that happens between the garlic, oil, balsamic, and syrup is undeniably irresistible. The almonds must be sprinkled once that salad is ready to be eaten, so they can retain their soft shape, crunchy texture and charm. A swirl of soft creamy cheese, the icing on the cake.
CRUNCHY WHEAT BERRY SALAD WITH CRANBERRIES AND GOAT CHEESE RECIPE (print)makes 8 servings
2 cups wheat berries, dry (will yield 5 cups cooked)
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 large shallots, sliced
1 cup dried cranberries
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste
3 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Bring 5 cups of salted water to boil. Rinse the wheat berries in cold water and then add them to the boiling water. After adding the berries, bring the water back up to a boil before reducing the heat. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for 45 - 60 minutes (stirring occasionally), or until wheat berries have begun to split in half and are chewy in texture. Strain them and set to the side to cool.
While the wheat berries are cooling, chop the celery and shallots. Add them to a large bowl, followed by the dried cranberries.
In a small food processor or with an immersion blender, combine the garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Blend for a couple of seconds until the garlic has become minced and the ingredients are well combined. If you don't have a food processor or immersion blender, you can always just puree the garlic by hand, and add it to olive oil and balsamic in a small bowl, then combine with a wire whisk.
Add the cooked wheat berries and then pour the dressing over top and combine with a wooden spoon. Let the salad rest in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours to let the flavors absorb. The salad is best when allowed to sit overnight.
Once you are ready to serve, sprinkle the goat cheese and sliced almonds on top.
May be kept in the fridge for up to one week.