A flavourful, hearty salad is perfect for a picnic or a bbq. Or it can easily be a meal-in-a-bowl on a smokin' hot night when turning on the oven would be plain foolish. In my south facing, highly-windowed apartment with a stinkin' greenhouse lovely sunroom and no air conditioning, this has been my reality for the past several weeks. There have been a lot of salads.
What I really love most about them is their endless versatility. Start with a grain - maybe even pick one you have never tried! Quinoa, couscous, bulgur wheat, kasha (aka buckwheat), amaranth, kamut berries, or different shapes of pasta are all great options. Add some fresh herbs, fresh or dried fruit, diced cucumber, celery, tomatoes and/or peppers, some toasted nuts, and a bright vinaigrette, and you are almost guaranteed a delicious result. It is a great place to be creative and to make the most of what is in season. I used apricots in this salad, which are at their peak in British Columbia right now. If you can't find fresh apricots, you could substitute dried (just soak them in some boiling water to plump them up) or you could use firm nectarines or peaches instead.
Wheat berries, in my opinion, are a wildly underused grain. They have lots of chewy texture and a sweet, nutty flavour that really stands up to other ingredients in a salad. They are actually the entire wheat kernel, so they are very nutrient rich and high fibre - if you need a reason to eat them beyond deliciousness. You can cook the wheat berries up to 48 hours in advance, just cool completely and refrigerate until ready to use.
Aren't they pretty?! I think they want to be a tart in their next life.
Wheat Berry Salad with Apricots and Green Onions
Toasting the nuts is very important to their flavour and is well worth the extra few minutes effort. Simply spread them in a single layer in a pan over medium heat, and cook until aromatic and slightly browned - 3-5 minutes. Shake the pan frequently and do not leave them unattended as they will burn quickly.
1 cup wheat berries
3 ripe, but firm, apricots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/4 cup dried currants, soaked for 5 minutes in 1 cup boiling water
1 bunch green onions (about 5), finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp honey
1. Bring to a boil a large pot of salted, boiling water (water should taste as salty as the ocean). Add wheat berries, return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Wheat berries should be tender but still chewy. Drain water and spread wheat berries out on a baking sheet to cool quickly.
2. Meanwhile, prepare vinaigrette by whisking together all ingredients. Set aside.
3. When wheat berries have cooled to room temperature, toss with remaining salad ingredients and vinaigrette. Serve cold or at room temperature.