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Wheat berries a healthy, versatile base

Wed., Aug. 27, 2014

Mildly nutty, protein-rich and full of fiber, Palouse-grown wheat berries provide a versatile base for all kinds of dishes – from soups to salads to other sides.

Varieties (hard, soft, spring or winter) can be used interchangeably. Labeling is inconsistent – you may find them labeled “hard red winter wheat” without the words “wheat berries.”

Substitute them where you might usually use rice, orzo or quinoa – in shrimp teriyaki, Thai-inspired stir fry and roasted vegetable pilaf. With barely there flavor but plenty of nutrition, they soak up the essence of other ingredients and add texture and substance.

And, perhaps the best part, they don’t require a long overnight soak before using.

Here are a few more recipes that feature the whole grain.

Ina Garten’s Wheat Berry Salad

From “Barefoot Contessa Family Style,” 2002

1 cup hard winter wheat berries

Kosher salt

1 cup finely diced red onion (1 onion)

6 tablespoons good olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 scallions, minced, white and green parts

1/2 red bell pepper, small diced

1 carrot, small diced

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the wheat berries and 3 cups of boiling salted water in a saucepan and cook, uncovered, over low heat for about 45 minutes, or until they are soft. Drain.

Saute the red onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons ( 1/4 cup) of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.

In a large bowl, combine the warm wheat berries, onions, scallions, red bell pepper, carrot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the wheat berries to absorb the sauce. Season to taste and serve at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings

Wheat Berry Salad with Red Fruit

From the March/April 2007 issue of EatingWell magazine

Serve this sweet, tart and tangy salad over a bed of peppery arugula for lunch or dinner.

For the wheat berries:

2 cups hard red winter wheat berries

7 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

For the salad:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1 large Fuji apple, unpeeled, diced

1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Prepare the wheat berries: Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any stones. Rinse well under cool running water. Place in a large heavy saucepan. Add water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Drain and rinse. Let cool to room temperature. (Makes about 4 1/2 cups.)

Prepare the salad: Combine orange juice and cranberries in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Combine 3 cups of the cooked wheat berries, apple and pecans in a large bowl; stir gently. Drain the cranberries, reserving the juice. Stir the cranberries into the wheat berry mixture. (Refrigerate the extra cooked wheat berries for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month.)

Whisk the reserved orange juice, vinegar and oil in a small bowl until combined. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and stir gently to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Make ahead: Cover and refrigerate the cooked wheat berries for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month; refrigerate the prepared salad for up to 1 day.

Notes: To toast pecan halves, spread nuts on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees, stirring once, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings, about 1 cup each

Mushrooms and Wheat Berries


1 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

2 cups mixed mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon (or more) soy sauce or tamari

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

About 2 tablespoons mirin

1 cup cooked wheat berries

Drizzle of honey

1 cup baked tofu, chopped (optional)

1/4 cup scallions, handful of microgreens, or herbs of your choice

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. Once oil is hot add minced shallot, and let cook until slightly soft, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and stir. Then add a splash of soy sauce, and give the pan a good shake. Let mushrooms cook until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add garlic and five-spice powder and stir. Add mirin to deglaze the pan, scraping off any bits that are sticking to the bottom. Reduce heat. The mushrooms should be good and soft by now, if they’re not, let them continue to cook until they are. Add the wheat berries, a drizzle of honey, tofu and stir to combine.

Remove pan from heat and toss in scallions, microgreens, or any fresh herbs that you’re using. Taste and adjust seasonings, add a little more soy sauce if necessary.

Wheat Berry ‘Paella’ with Chickpeas and Leeks

From Post Punk Kitchen at

Isa Chandra Moskowitz – creator of the blog and an author and columnist – came up with this recipe after a trip to Barcelona.

“The wheat berries have a satisfying chewy bite that works wonderfully with the creamy chickpeas and everything is coated with a tangy, sultry broth, punctuated with a few briny capers,” she writes.

1 cup wheat berries

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1/2 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

2 leeks, white and green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch half moons and washed well

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup dry white wine (such as chardonnay)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 roasted red peppers, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

4 teaspoons capers

Fresh black pepper (Moskowitz recommends “lots.”)

2 cups drained, cooked chickpeas (one 15-ounce can should work)

1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Prepare the wheat berries: Place wheat berries in a 2-quart pot and submerge in water that covers them by 2 extra inches. Cover and bring to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes then turn the heat off completely. Keep covered and let steam for another hour. They should be firm and chewy. Drain and set aside.

Prepare the saffron threads: In order to get the most flavor from saffron, they need to be steeped. Pour ½ cup of boiling water over the saffron in a coffee mug, cover and let sit for about an hour. Once ready to use, press against the saffron with the back of a spoon to crush it a little. It’s now ready to use.

Prepare the paella: In a large pan over medium heat, saute leeks in 1 tablespoon olive oil with a pinch of salt for about 7 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same pan over medium-low heat, saute garlic in 2 teaspoons olive oil for about a minute. Add the oregano and thyme and saute for about 30 more seconds. Add white wine, salt and saffron threads in water and turn the heat up high. Bring to a boil and let boil and reduce for about 3 minutes.

Lower heat to medium, add cooked wheat berries, vegetable broth, tomato paste, roasted red peppers, bay leaves, capers and fresh black pepper. Let cook for about 15 minutes adding the chickpeas about halfway through. The wheatberries should absorb a lot of the liquid, but it should still be somewhat saucy. Remove bay leaves and taste for salt.

Mix in the chopped parsley or cilantro and lemon juice. Turn off heat and let sit for about 10 minutes to let the flavors marry. It’s one of those things that will taste even better in an hour or so, so if you’ve got that kind of time then go for it, just gently reheat before serving.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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