The Kitchn

Texture adds interest to healthy, hearty salad

TheKitchn.comFebruary 12, 2013 

Wheat Berry Salad with Blood Oranges, Feta, and Red Onion Vinaigrette.


  • Wheat Berry Salad 1 cup soft wheat berries 6 tablespoons Red Onion Vinaigrette 2 blood oranges 3 ounces feta cheese, cut into chunks Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped Optional: 1 cup diced fennel, diced radishes, sliced green onions or diced celery BOIL 4 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Add a sprinkle of salt and the wheat berries. Reduce to a simmer and cook as directed on the package or until the wheat berries are tender, from 30 minutes to an hour. Drain. COMBINE the warm wheat berries with the vinaigrette in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Peel the oranges and cut between the membranes to get segments. Dice the segments and add to the wheat berries with the feta, parsley and any additional vegetables. Toss and serve. REFRIGERATE leftovers up to one week. YIELD: Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side salad.
  • Red Onion Vinaigrette 2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil, divided 1 medium red onion, sliced thinly 1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (from about 3 sprigs) 1/4 cup cider vinegar 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 4 teaspoons sugar 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt Black pepper HEAT 2 teaspoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer. TRANSFER the onion mixture to a tall-sided container along with the vinegars, extra-virgin olive oil, sugar, salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Alternatively, blend in a blender or food processor. Keeps refrigerated for several weeks. YIELD: About 1 cup

In a recent pantry reorganization, I found a bag of wheat berries I’d been meaning to use. A simple salad with some winter citrus and salty feta seemed like a good idea, and it all turned out very tasty. Light yet satisfying, this makes a perfect lunch or dinner salad this time of year.

Wheat berries are whole kernels of wheat with the hull removed. They’re what you’d grind up to make whole-wheat flour. Soft wheat berries can be soaked overnight or boiled for an hour in the same way that you’d cook dried beans. (Hard wheat berries take much longer to cook, so look for white or red wheat berries that are labeled as soft.) You can find them in health-focused stores or even in some well-stocked supermarkets along with other whole grains, such as quinoa.

The textures of this salad stand out. Besides the chewiness of the wheat berries, there’s juiciness from the blood oranges and a crumbly-creaminess from the cheese. Oranges and feta are great together, and the dressing mirrors that sweet-and-tangy combination with onions, vinegar and a bit of sugar.

What’s missing is some color. I wanted to add something green, but what? I went with a handful of parsley – nice but perhaps less than inspired. Consider this recipe a work in progress, and feel free to add your own preferred ingredient for added color. It needs to be light and not too overwhelming, but interesting. Some promising options would be arugula, thinly sliced Napa cabbage or a handful of crunchy fennel.

To make this salad into dinner, just add some sliced chicken breast, baked fish or even a simple poached egg. Note that you’ll make more vinaigrette than you need, but the leftover is fantastic on green salads or as a marinade.

Elizabeth Passarella is a writer for, a national blog about food and home cooking.

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