Whole Grain

Try a delicious winter salad for the new year.

By Jess O’Toole

Whole grains serve as a filling and nutritious base for winter salads and your healthy diet. Wheat berries are whole-wheat kernels, and though they require a bit more effort than quick-cooking grains, the reward is in their nutty flavor and satisfying texture and healthy eating plan for entire family. Wheat berries should be soaked in water overnight and then simmered for about 45 minutes, but preparing them ahead of time on the weekend makes it quick and easy to add the grains to salads and soups throughout the week and make them part of your healthy diet. This winter wheat berry salad is made using pantry items like roasted red bell peppers from a jar combined with canned white beans, tangy capers and creamy feta cheese. Fennel, a licorice flavored bulb, is a cold season vegetable that adds freshness to the salad, along with plenty of parsley. Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Fennel and Red Bell Pepper makes for a healthy and sustaining packed lunch or supper. If wheat berries are unavailable cooked barley or quinoa would be delicious in this recipe.

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Fennel and Red Bell Pepper 

  • 1 cup uncooked wheat berries
  • 1 large bulb of fennel
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, or other white bean
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Soak the wheat berries overnight by placing the grains in a bowl and covering them with water. To cook the wheat berries, drain from the soaking water and place the grains in a medium pot with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring the water to a boil, cover and simmer until the grains are al dente, or tender but pleasantly chewy, about 40-50 minutes.

Roast the fennel. Heat the oven to 425°F. Cut off the top stalks and the hard base. Slice the bulb in half vertically and cut out the woody core. Chop the fennel roughly into bite-sized pieces, then toss with 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven till tender and caramelized, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked wheat berries, fennel, red bell pepper, cannellini beans, and parsley. Make the vinaigrette. Place the capers and sherry vinegar in a bowl and gradually whisk in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad. Season the salad with sea salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over the feta cheese just before serving. Enjoy the salad warm or at room temperature.