Wheat berries are one of those things that I'd never eaten, except in tabbouleh. Until today that is. Yet another acquisition from Whole Foods, I put them to soak in a big bowl of water this morning and found them plump and pliable by dinner-time. Wheat berries take a while to cook-much longer than cracked wheat, and even boiling them on my biggest burner, it took about an hour until they reached al dente perfection. These babies suck up a lot of water, so make sure that you have plenty in the pot or they will stick to the bottom and burn. I had extra water left by the time they were cooked and so I just drained the berries in a colander.
I was pleased to see that 1 cup of dry berries resulted in two cups of cooked grain. I stuffed the rest in the fridge and tossed this salad together for dinner. The slightly chewy berries melded perfectly with the salty feta and the sauteed mushrooms and spinach. A little lemon zest and juice is a good, though optional, addition. This salad is open to experimentation-I think quinoa or brown rice or pasta would work almost as well as the wheat berries, and one could certainly substitute different cheeses for the feta or try sauteing peppers in place of the mushrooms or kale instead of the spinach.
Wheat Berry Salad with Feta and Olives
Serves 1 as a light main course, two as a small side. About 365 calories total if using fat free feta.
3/4 cup cooked wheat berries
About an ounce of crumbled feta (I used fat free, but pick your favorite)
3 olives (or more, to taste)
A large handful of fresh spinach
Optional: about a cup of sliced Crimini mushrooms
A splash of sherry (optional)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste
Grated zest and the juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)
2 tablespoons minced red onion (or to taste)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (optional)
1 tsp olive oil
1. Slice mushrooms, mince the red onion and thinly slice the olives.
2. Heat the teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan to medium low heat. Toss in the spinach and mushrooms and turn the heat low, add the sherry, if desired, cover the pan and allow the mushrooms to "sweat" for several minutes. You may also add the onion at this point if you don't like it raw, otherwise save it for garnish.
3. Uncover the pan, add the black pepper and crushed red pepper and salt if needed. Toss in a bowl with the feta, wheat berries and olives. Top with the parsley, onion and lemon zest, and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the whole shebang before serving.