I’ve wanted to post this recipe for a while, and I’m kind of glad that I waited. While it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving side dish, it would certainly fit in well on a Thanksgiving table. Plus, it can go from side dish to main dish in an instant if you just add some grilled chicken or, perhaps, some leftover Thanksgiving turkey? Yep. In my mental calendar of “Where Things Belong on the Blog”, this fits well here.
I first ran across a wheat berry salad in the deli case of one of our local organic markets. I was hooked instantly. If you’ve never had wheat berries before, they are just unprocessed wheat kernels. They can be ground up into wheat flour or cooked up as you would barley or any other grain. When cooked, they have a unique texture that I absolutely love. They aren’t chewy, per se, but they have a really good “bite” to them. They are very hearty and nutty, very good for you (see the article here), and are pretty yummy when mixed up into this salad, if I do say so myself! After falling in love with the salad at the store, I was determined to make my own. I looked and looked for a recipe that might work and I found one that has become a family favorite.
Wheat berries can be a little hard to find. I have to rely on the same organic market where I first tried the salad. The picture above shows the brand I’ve always used. Wheat berries usually take upwards of an hour to cook properly. I bought this bag, assuming they would take an hour as well, but when I read the fine print on the back, I found that they’d been parboiled so the cooking time is cut down to just 15 minutes! Bonus!
While the berries were boiling away on the stove, I chopped up some celery, green onion, and a Granny Smith apple. I also roughly chopped up some dried cherries. The original recipe I found called for chopped walnuts instead of the apple. I’m sure that’s delicious as well, but I’ve always served this with my kids around and, I don’t know how your kids are, but mine wouldn’t come near it with a ten foot pole if walnuts were involved. The apple adds a great crunch. We’ve never missed the walnuts.
After the berries had cooked, drained and cooled a bit, I tossed them with the chopped up fruits and veggies. I also added some olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. That’s it! All done! At this point, I usually chill it for a few hours, to let the flavors come together, before serving. It even tastes great the next day, so you can make it up ahead of time if need be. If, when you go to serve it, it seems a little dry, just toss it with a little more olive oil.
Who says this couldn’t be part of your Thanksgiving table, right? It’s hearty and healthy, the colors are perfect for fall, and it might just make you feel a little less guilty about partaking in that marshmallow covered sweet potato dish or second piece of pumpkin pie. Sounds good to me!
AUTUMN WHEAT BERRY SALAD
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
- 1½ cups hard wheat berries
- 1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- ½ cup tart, dried cherries, chopped
- 1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- In a medium saucepan, combine the wheat berries and enough water to come 2 inches over the berries. Bring to a boil and cook, according to the directions on the package. (Could be an hour, or just 15 minutes!) Cook until tender. Drain and let cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooled wheat berries, celery, apple, dried cherries, green onions, olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper
- Chill until ready to serve. Serves 6-8