Whoa, is it actually this close to Christmas? Where the deuce have I been? I got a bit of a shock the other day when my dear friend Kiki asked me if I could share with her my favorite healthy holiday meal ideas. Yikes! I have actually thought of doing some kind of “festive favorites” round-up every year, but never got around to it because I seem to have a serious aversion to things I am “supposed” to do. Oops. So now…err, uh…I guess I will give it a go! And thanks to Kiki for putting a fire under it. 😉
I am going to start with this dish that I came up with at work last week, which I feel fits the bill just so. And it re-introduces many people to this groovy grain we all know as wheat, but in its whole form! I feel it’s holiday-appropriate because the familiar flavours of the spice mix in this dish are reminiscent of Christmas, but with an exotic edge. In the back of my head I was going for some sort of Moroccan thing – I love cinnamon in savory dishes, especially when hanging out with coriander and cumin. Totally winter-warming! Secondly, we got those beautiful wheat berries, which spend a heck of a lot of time boiling away, sucking in all that heat energy. AND, the roasted carrots that turn from crispy-cold to caramelized with love from the oven. Sigh. Everything coming together for a good cause: feeding your beautiful body with warmth! What could be better than that during the holidays?
Wheat Berries…have we met?
Yes, you have. Wheat berries are just kernels of wheat (the kind that would otherwise be ground into flour), totally unprocessed in their whole state. Exciting, eh? I think so. I would put them in a category with short-grain brown rice, as they too are plump, hearty, and satisfying with the most amazing chewy texture. I love eating wheat berries in salads because they maintain their shape and suck up dressing like a good grain should. They are also wonderful in warm dishes and add awesome texture to soups and stews.
Because wheat berries are unprocessed, they contain all the goodness of the whole grain. We’re talking oodles of B vitamins (except B12) for extra energy and battling holiday stress; lots of fiber for keeping us, ahem, regular, as well as protein, folate, vitamin E, and calcium. Sounds like a pretty good deal, no?
The other wonderful proponent of wheat berries that I get a kick out of, are the plant lignans! Remember those fun-loving phytonutrients? They are commonly found in flax seeds, nuts, and legumes – I wrote about them here. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, lignans are converted by friendly flora in our intestines into mammalian lignans, including one called enterolactone that is thought to protect against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers as well as heart disease. Lignans have also been shown to decrease insulin resistance, which, in turn, reduces bio-available estrogen, which also lessens breast cancer risk.
Just a couple more reasons to eat your wheat!
You can find wheat berries at health food stores, most often in the bulk section. It’s rather inexpensive and is great to store in your pantry, as it keeps for months. Make it your new staple!
Warming Winter Wheat Berry Salad
2 cups wheat berries
7 – 9 carrots (1 lb. bag)
1 small red onion
6 cloves garlic
melted ghee or your oil of choice
½ cup dark raisins or chopped dates
2 tsp. sea salt
flat leaf parsley
about 25 Kalamata olives (optional)
1/2 cup almonds (optional)
1 ½ lemons – juice and zest
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. raw honey
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
pinch of sea salt
1. If possible, soak wheat berries overnight or for 8+ hours. Otherwise, rinse wheat berries well until the water is clear. Measure 6 cups water and add to a large pot with wheat berries. Add 1 tsp. sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer until cooked, approx. 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
3. Wash and slice carrots lengthwise from top to bottom, then again once more on each half. Then slice the carrot across widthwise so you have eight carrots slices.
4. Mince garlic and combine with ghee or oil. Drizzle over carrots and toss to coat on a baking sheet. Season with 1 tsp. salt. Place in oven. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and slightly caramelized. YUM!
5. Make dressing by combining all ingredients and whisking well.
6. Remove wheat berries from heat, drain and rinse under cool water (you will know they are cooked when some of the berries have split open. They will still be very chewy). Combine wheat berries with dressing, raisins, slivered red onion, olives, and chopped parsley. Let sit and marinate for as long as possible, or fold in the carrots as soon as they are roasted to your liking. Serve warm or cold, garnished with roughly chopped almonds and a grind of fresh black pepper.
As a side note: remember that wheat berries contain gluten, so if you are gluten-intolerant try substituting with quinoa (which I did, it was delicious!!!), whole buckwheat, short-grain brown rice, wild rice, or amaranth.
So ya’ll, here is my first holiday dish that you can enjoy without feeling like you’ve done a serious disservice to your body…and that’s just the beginning! In my next post I think I will actually put a real menu together. Wow. Probably good timing too, as I am having a holiday dinner party this coming Saturday and should perhaps begin planning something? Really? Do people actually do that? I sense a New Year’s resolution coming on…
17 thoughts on “Warming Winter Wheat Berry Salad”
I think I’ll warm it in microwave before eating, love warm salads in winter and I think it should be great particularly with this salad, am I right? Let’s experiment this!
Just wanted to let you know I made this for my [celiac] uncle and the rest of my family (replaced wheat berries w/ red quinoa) and everyone was obsessed. I’ve actually made this recipe before (again, quinoa instead of wheat berries) but I forgot to tell you! Everybody in my family thinks the flavor+texture of it is great. One thing- I was making it for my extended family for Passover, where I couldn’t use almonds. I replaced the almonds with some chopped jicama and I honestly thought it was better than when I had made it with the almonds! Just FYI. Thanks for the recipe!
Greetings from Southern California! Oh my goodness, this is a wonderful recipe!! I prepared it exactly as written and I just finished eating my first bowl… ok, bowl and a half because I HAD to have more of it! It’s so flavorful, textural and just plain yummy. I love that the red onion wasn’t roasted with the carrots because it added a nice crunchy, fresh flavor! (and I love roasted onion, but that was perfect!) I’ll be eating this for a lunches all week. Thanks for another recipe that I’ll make again and again!
How many people do think this recipe would serve as a side dish?
I just made this in the middle of summer. It’s all good because it’s a cloudy day and I could use some warming. Let me just say that this recipe made my soul sing. I could feel the happy vibrations surging in my body all over while I was eating it. No, I’m not joking. You must have come up with this recipe with alot of love and conscious thought. Thank you for sharing this one and all your wonderful recipes. Your creativity and passion for fresh whole foods is inspiring to say the least.
Made this and rate it six out of five stars!
I am going to make this on Saturday for my family in mumbai india! Thanks!
I just found your blog and want to say thank you! What an enjoyable time looking
through so many cooking recipes sites. Thanks for sharing
You can find wheat berries at health food stores, and sometimes Irma sells them. They are just called “hvede” or “hel hvede” here. Also look for them at green stores (the ethnic produce shops all over). Since they carry a whole range of products not typically found in Denmark, you’ll have a good chance of finding them. They won’t be organic, but that is okay, right? 🙂
Good luck here in Copenhagen. Stop by The Raw Tribe sometime…
I’m a recent transplant to Copenhagen, and have been looking everywhere for wheat berries! Can you tell me where you found them and/or what they are called in Danish?
Love your site!!!
I made this for New Year with a red quinoa and it was a HUGE hit! so yummy. the perfect combination of flavors. I am making another batch tonight 🙂
I made this tonight with pearled barley and it was AMAZING! Thank you!
I am going to make this on Saturday for my family in Mississippi! Thanks!
I really like the combination of Mediterranean flavors and ingredients in this salad. Healthy and pleasing to the eye!
Sarah, this is wonderful and festive as i expected. I will definitely make it for my mum. Thanks for answering my challenge, and for the lovely postcard.
It has been too long since I’ve had wheat berries. I blame it on my bulgur infatuation. I think it is time to change that. Thanks for this fabulous recipe! 🙂
I love the addition of the black olives! Yum! We can’t have wheat berries because of our gluten-intolerance. I’m sure this could be made with wild rice, or even kamut…