Last night I had a lot of packing to do, so I wanted something that would take forever to cook without my watching it. I also wanted to get rid of some of the piles of bulk foods in my pantry and freezer. I have bags and bags of various beans and grains and rices, and only a little over two weeks left before I move. It’s time to stop buying and start eating. If you feel like some black bean or lentil soup, or maybe a barley risotto, come on over and we’ll have a feast.
Two bags in particular fit the bill for last night: hard red wheat berries and dry chickpeas. Both take about 2 hours to cook. They’re also both great for non-green summer salads, and I’m always in the mood for those.
The wheat berry salad recipe is adapted from Lorna Sass’ Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way. It’s a great book; I recommend it for learning about all kinds of new grains. Sass takes a very methodical approach, and has determined the best way to cook each type of grain (always comforting for an uptight cook like me). The salad is chewy and sour-sweet and delicious. I usually use currants (for the “sweet” part), but last night I didn’t have any so I used strawberries. Currants are better; the mild strawberries were overwhelmed by the orange dressing. Today when I brought the leftovers for lunch I put blueberries in it; still not as good as currants. The recipe actually calls for apples, and I can see how that would work.
With the chickpeas I made a warm chickpea salad from a recipe on Orangette. It was also fabulous, with one caveat: according to my boyfriend, it gave me serious onion/garlic breath.
What’s that? You think it’s silly to eat two salads instead of an actual meal? Well I’ll have you know that my salads covered five of the six food groups. And just look at all those empty bowls. We were happy.
Wheat Berry Salad with Mint
Adapted from Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way by Lorna Sass
1 cup wheat berries (uncooked)
2 1/2 cups water
2 juice oranges
3/4 cups tightly packed mint leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup currants (or chopped apples)
1/2 cup hazelnuts (or pecans or almonds), toasted and coarsely chopped
1. If you have time, soak the wheat berries in the water overnight. Alternatively, do a “quick soak”: bring the water to a boil, stir in the wheat berries, turn off the heat, and let soak for an hour.
2. Bring the water and wheat berries to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cover. Simmer for at least 45 minutes. When you see the little pale nubs poke out one end of the berries, start tasting for doneness. They will be soft, but still very chewy.
3. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Use a zester or grater to zest both oranges; set aside in a bowl. Then juice the oranges; you should have about 1/2 cup. Put the orange juice, 1/2 cup of the mint leaves, oil, vinegar, and salt into a blender and puree.
4. When the wheat berries are done, drain them thoroughly, then put them back in the hot pot and cover, allowing them to rest for 5-10 minutes.
5. Put the wheat berries in a medium bowl. Add the dressing and orange zest, and toss to coat. Let the mixture “marinate” for about 15 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, roll the remaining 1/4 cup mint leaves into a log and slice them thinly. If you’re using currants, soak them in water to cover for about 10 minutes, then drain.
7. Toss the sliced mint leaves, hazelnuts, and currants with the wheat berry mixture. If necessary, add more salt to taste.
Makes about 4 servings.
Notes from the book: You can use triticale, spelt, or kamut instead of wheatberries.