Grains


Well, here I am again…borrowing yet another page from Heidi Swanson.  This time it’s a special request from the friend who borrowed Super Natural Cooking.  So, I happen to have eaten this salad but never made it myself.  For that reason, I’ll just give you the recipe with little commentary.

Wheat Berry Salad with Citrus, Toasted Pine Nuts, Feta, and Spinach
from Super Natural Cooking, by Heidi Swanson, Celestial Arts, 2007

2 cups soft wheat berries, rinsed
6 cups water
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt, plus more as needed

Citrus Dressing
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 generous handfuls spinach leaves, stemmed and well rinsed
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine the wheat berries, water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy, about an hour or so.  The berries should stay al dente, and the only way to be sure they’re done is to taste a few.  Drain and season to taste with more salt. 

To make the dressing, combine the orange zest and juice, lemon juice, and shallot.  Whisk in the olive oil and season with a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Toss the hot wheat berries with the spinach, pine nuts, citrus dressing, then top with the feta.  Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with a bit more salt if needed.

Serves 4 to 6.

This recipe is adapted from the wonderful (and beautiful) Smitten Kitchen.  First, I’ll come clean – one of the biggest changes to this recipe was actually an accident.  I was at the store, staring at the bulk whole grains, and I could have sworn I scooped from the bin labeled: bulgur.  Apparently, it was barley.  I know that most people would know the difference between these two things on sight, but I, alas, did not.  I even insisted to many of the people who ate it that this was, indeed, bulgur.  All of them kindly nodded and went about their business, but I’m pretty sure that most of them were laughing at me on the inside.  Oh well, there are worse faux pas than confusing your whole grains. 

Luckily, it turns out that this salad is wonderful with barley, but barley needs to be cooked for considerably longer than bulgur, so if you’re in a time pinch, use bulgur instead.

I love this salad, and it’s really very good for you, so I usually make a double batch and eat it for lunch every day.  This has led to my husband boycotting barley for the remainder of the summer, but that’s another post.

Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list – this is a very simple recipe that requires a minimum of prep.  You can leave out the garam masala and turmeric if you can’t find them, and don’t be afraid to play with other spices you think might work.

Barley Salad with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Spinach

1 1/2 cups barley
4-5 cups water
3 Tablespoons lemon juice (when I first made this, I didn’t have lemons, so I used 3 TB mojito mix and skipped the honey, it was fabulous)
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
salt
2 Tablespoons Walnut oil or olive oil
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, finely chopped (to reduce it’s bite, you can soak it and then drain it out with the barley for some of the soaking time).
2 handfuls or so baby spinach, washed and dried
Whole Wheat Pita bread, sprayed with olive oil and toasted in a 450 degree oven until brown and crispy

To cook the barley, bring water to boil in a medium saucepan.  Add barley and return to a boil.  Cover, reduce to a simmer, and simmer 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for an additional 20 minutes. (If you like your barley softer, simmer longer).  Drain the barley and place in a large bowl.

Whisk together lemon juice, honey, cumin, cayenne, garam masala, turmeric, and salt.  Whisk in oil until dressing is smooth.

Add chickpeas, tomatoes, onion, and spinach to the bowl with the drained barley and stir to combine. Pour the dressing over the barley mixture and toss to combine. 

Serve with toasted pita wedges.  Good served warm or cold.