Mediterranean Wheat Berry Salad

I adore wheat berries. Really, truly love them, and the great thing about it is, they are one of the healthiest, least processed foods you can put into your body. Their downfall is the time it takes to cook them, I’ll be the first to admit. But they are well worth the wait for their nutty taste, satisfying chewy “pop”, and perfect nutritional value. Have you been told you need to eat more whole grains? It doesn’t get any better than this: A wheat berry is a harvested kernel of whole wheat. “Hard” wheat berries are darker and chewier, while “soft” wheat berries are white and more like grains of fat rice or barley. This recipe uses hard wheat berries, but feel free to use soft. You might want to Google a recipe just to be sure the cooking time and water amount are proportioned correctly.

This salad is a huge step up from pasta salad, in both nutrition and appeal – it’s different from your ordinary lunch. It combines the wholesome, filling grain with the fresh, bright flavors of a Mediterranean dish. I improvised this, so there is definitely room to play around with it. In the summertime, I would definitely add halved cherry tomatoes and matchstick cucumbers, but given the season and what’s in my pantry, this is what I made. It’s delicious and will be a great lunch all week long!

Mediterranean Wheat Berry Salad

1 cup wheat berries
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 lb frozen spinach, thawed & pressed
1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained
4 to 6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 lemon, both zest & juice
1 to 2 T olive oil
*Spices: I happen to have  a lovely Mediterranean spice blend from World Market that I sprinkle on everything many different things. Assuming that’s not in your cabinet, use any blend of the following to suit your taste:
Garlic, Red Pepper Flakes, Parsley, Dill, Mint
Salt to taste

  1. Cook the wheat berries. This does take a good hour, but you can leave it unattended on the stove while you read a book, do your laundry, mow the lawn, whine about it on Twitter… whatever. Combine water, a pinch of salt and wheat berries in a pot and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally. At an hour, take a couple out and test them – they should be chewy, but not hard. When they’re done, drain and set aside.
  2. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Adjust seasoning to your taste.
  3. Stir in the wheat berries and refrigerate. I have a feeling this would be delicious either cold or hot.

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