Not sure what it is about me, but I'm feeling a little bit rebellious this year when it comes to Thanksgiving. Don't get me wrong, I love the traditional foods as much as the next person, but I keep tending towards holiday recipes that push the limits, like this wonderful, colorful and healthy warm wheat berry salad. It's full of roasted parsnips, butternut squash, red onion and dried cranberries--all very apropos of Turkey Day and yet I bet you've never had anything like this on your holiday table before. But you should, because guys, in addition to being good for you, this Autumn Wheat Berry Salad is amazingly delicious!!
Have you ever had wheat berries before? Basically they're just whole wheat kernels without any of the good-for-you fiber removed. They do take quite a bit of time to cook (at least an hour) but the process is very hands-free. Once cooked, they sort of remind me in both shape and consistency of barley--they've got a really nice chewiness and earthiness that compliments the textures and flavors of the roasted veggies.
And speaking of those roasted veggies, they come together really easily--just cut 'em up, put them on a parchment-lined tray, drizzle with oil and balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper and bake. The roasting caramelizes them, bringing out their natural sweetness.
Rounding everything out are the addition of tart dried cranberries and the crunch of both scallions and fresh parsley.
The salad is so colorful and so wonderfully textured and flavored. You can make it the morning of Thanksgiving and just let it sit at room temperature until you're ready to serve. Then you can serve it as is or heat it up in the oven for a short time. It's really yummy either way. And easy to transport if you're assigned a dish to bring to someone's house for the big day. Plus, there's a very good chance that no one else will be making anything of the sort, so the probability of dish duplication will be low. And vegetarians will swoon!! So this Thanksgiving, go a little rogue like me and serve up some untraditional Wheat Berry Salad--just make sure there are mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes with the little marshmallows and plenty of pie or I can't promise that things won't get ugly!!
Autumn Wheat Berry Salad
Makes about 6 servings but if you have a lot of sides this will probably serve 8-10 people
Cook Time for Wheat Berries: 1 hour to cook; Cook Time for Veggies: About 25-30 minutes; Assembly Time: 10 minutes
- 1 cup wheat berries, rinsed
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
- 3 parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeded and cut into small chunks
- 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2 scallions, chopped, white and green parts
1. Into a medium-sized heavy weight pot, place the water, wheat berries and salt and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to low, cover the pot and let cook for about 1 hour, until the kernels are tender. Drain then and place in a large bowl.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450ºF and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the parsnips, squash, onion and garlic on the sheet and drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Then bake for about 25-30 minutes, stirring once throughout the process until the veggies are tender and caramelized.
3. Add the veggies to the wheat berries in the bowl and stir well. Then add the parsley, cranberries and scallions and mix well. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. You can serve this hot, warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for several days and it's even good cold.
Note: Recipe adapted from Vegetable of the Day by Kate McMillan.