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 TheKitchn.com, a national blog about food and home cooking.