Wheat Berry Salad

>>  Wednesday, January 20, 2010

raw wheat berries
I love wheat berries.  I first tried them at the salad bar at Whole Foods Market and I was hooked.  They are slightly chewy, and "pop" when you bite into them.  I love it.  Plus you feel really good after eating it, probably because it's loaded with vitamins, fiber, and other very good stuff.

What's a wheat berry?
A wheat berry is an intact wheat kernel.  It's what gets ground up to make wheat flour. I could go into a long dissertation about the benefits of keeping your grains whole as long as possible, but I'll save that for another post. Suffice it to say, wheat berries are packed with nutrients and fiber since they are virtually unprocessed.

For now, let me show you how to make wheat berries!

Inspired by The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger

1 cup soft white wheat berries
2 cups water
dash of salt
toasting wheat berries
Toast the wheat berries in a skillet for ~4 minutes on medium high heat. Stir often, for the wheat berries will begin to brown and even start popping. You may want to get a lid just in case. I had one fly off the pan and onto the counter!  This step is optional, but it does give a nice, roasted nutty flavor and the grains will smell fantastic while they are cooking in the rice cooker!
soaking wheat berries
Soak the wheat berries for 1 hour in water.

Drain the water and then cook the rice + 2 cups of water in a rice cooker at the brown rice setting. I use my awesome Zojirushi fuzzy logic rice cooker (mine's actually an older model they don't make anymore).  If you don't have a rice cooker, you can bring the wheat berries to a boil in a pot of water on the stove top and then let simmer for about 45 minutes.
note: Rice cookers come with a "cup" that is actually only 3/4 of a regular cup.  The recipe shown above is for regular cups, not rice cooker cups.  You can also try using the rice cooker proportions (i.e. add 2 rice cooker cups of wheat berries and fill the water up to level "2" under the "brown rice" section of the rice cooker)

This is what cooked wheat berries look like. Some of them will split open.
wheat berries
Now the possibilities are endless!  Some Asians find that, just by replacing their white rice with a whole grain like this, they can actually lose weight.  This stuff is filling (from all the fiber), super nutritious, and delicious (nutty, toasted flavor).  I usually feel really good after eating this.  I feel balanced, not stuffed, not unsatisfied.  I think it's because my body is getting enough nutrients and fiber, and thus it doesn't crave munchies or desserts as much after a meal.  I'm just starting to get into whole grains thing, but so far I love it!

Of course, you don't have to treat it like rice.  You can make interesting salads (which is how I first enjoyed it at Whole Foods).  Toss with a "dressing" of some sort, and mix in vegetables, cheese, meat - whatever you fancy.
chopped peppers onions
For this "recipe," I finely chopped 1 red bell pepper, 1 orange bell pepper, 1/3 red onion, and 2 mini-cucumbers.  I then dressed the cooked wheatberries with a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce, and sugar to taste.  You can add hot pepper flakes or ground black pepper if you like a bit of kick.  Finally, mix everything together.
Wheat berry salad
And that's it! Of course, this is very flexible and you can add whatever you want. I bet a Greek version with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, olives, peppers, and feta cheese would be really good as well.
wheatberry salad

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