winter wheat berry salad with figs and red onion

There are salads (iceburg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, scallions and croutons), and there are salads!  Memorable, delectable, unique, charismatic salads.  There are summer salads, all light and airy and drenched in refreshing vinaigrettes, and there are winter salads full of depth and texture and a heartiness the summer salad can’t match.  Honestly, I’d take winter over summer eleven times out of ten, which might have something to do with why I’d choose this salad over summer salads (and I make some pretty good ones) at about the same ratio.

I found this recipe over at The Kitchn, and they got it from Johnny Dornback of Basi Italia in Columbus, Ohio.  If I ever find myself in Columbus, I’ll be making some reservations at Basi Italia; especially if this salad is any indication of what might be in store.

Unfortunately, I served it at a church dinner and, sadly, I only scored one average sized serving.  Heaping it generously on to my own plate while members of the Thursday morning Bible Study looked on just didn’t feel right.  What I do know, however, is this salad is like a symphony in your mouth.  There are so many amazing textures and flavors, I’d advise to eat slowly.  Pace yourself.  Savor it.  And, by all means, heap it generously on to your plate.  Enjoy!

Winter Wheat Berry Salad with Figs & Red Onion
Adapted from Johnny Dornback of Basi Italia. Serves 8

1 1/2 cups wheat berries
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey*
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped finely
1/2 medium red onion (about 1/3 pound)
3 large stalks celery
1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest, from 2 lemons
1 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
Handful fresh parsley or mint, finely chopped
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put the wheat berries in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat down to low and partially cover the pot. Cook for 45 minutes, or until the wheat berries are soft yet still chewy.

While the wheat berries are cooking, whisk the rice vinegar, orange juice, and honey together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the raisins and chopped figs. Turn off the heat and let the fruit steep in the juice and vinegar mixture.

Finely dice the red onion; you will end up with between 1 and 1 1/2 cups. Finely dice the celery as well; you will have between 1 1/2 and 2 cups. Mix them in a large bowl.

When the wheat berries are tender enough to be chewed easily, drain them, then pour them into the large bowl with the red onion and celery. Toss with the olive oil and lemon zest. Add the vinegar and juice mixture, and all the fruit, and mix. Toss with the almonds, chopped parsley or mint, and with the salt. Add pepper to taste.

Let the salad stand at room temperature for at least one hour before serving, to allow the flavors mix and soak into the grain. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The salad can also be refrigerated for up to three days.

Looking for more great recipes?  Check out Tasty Tuesday over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

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2 responses

  1. Thanks for stopping by the blog…yes, the title sure did find itself! I was excited to click over here and see this recipe; I’ve been looking for things to do with wheat berries. Be back soon for more!

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