Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dinner on the patio- Lemony Wheat Berry Toss

Back to playing with grains- and this time I won't subject you guys to bad zombie jokes. I've been on a grain kick again lately, exploring the ancient grains and trying new textures and flavors. Wheat berries are on the menu today. These little bits of fabulous are very versatile! I've had them in artisan breads, but never had them cooked and served in other ways.

Because they are a heartier grain, they make a substantial addition to a salad entree. But what are wheat berries? Well, they are the whole wheat grain, the same thing that can be ground into flour. Besides being packed with fiber they are also a great source of protein and iron, so they make a great addition to vegetarian dishes. You can swap them out for other grains in dishes and their firm, chewy texture makes them a natural addition to salads. If you cannot have gluten or don't want to, this is NOT a grain for you. 

Because we don't want to sit down to a bowl full of nothing but grain, and we want the "fresh factor" and lots of fresh flavor, baby salad greens and especially baby spinach are the go-to choice for me. I find them to be extremely versatile, inexpensive if you buy, even easier to grow. Adding fresh veggies to a protein-packed salad like this one brings in loads more nutrients and fiber and flavor. 

So let's get started on our Lemony Wheat Berry Toss. You are going to need:

1 cup red wheat berries
3 cups water
a couple big handfuls baby spinach
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1/2 red onion, chopped
olive oil
1 lemon- you will need the zest from the whole lemon and the juice
salt, pepper

Start off by combining the wheat berries and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 50 minutes to an hour. You want the wheat berries to be tender but still chewy. Drain off any excess liquid. Set aside to cool.

In a large serving bowl combine vegetables and wheat berries. Toss with lemon juice, zest and a couple tablespoons olive oil. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

**NOTE: If you chill to serve later, I recommend chilling the wheat berries first and then combining the ingredients right before serving. Your veggies won't wilt and the berries won't soak up ALL the dressing.

This is intended to be an entree salad, so you can really have some fun with food here. You can add cubed cooked chicken, grilled shrimp, seared scallops, whatever you like. You can throw a palm full of fresh herbs in, thyme would go wonderfully with the lemony tone of this dish. Parsley would be an excellent punch of fresh flavor too. Growing some arugula or mesclun? Throw in a handful! I have a few different kinds of kale going in my garden so I plan on tearing some up and adding that next time. If you are one of those fried egg people who love the gooey yolk, top with a poached or softly fried egg. Some crusty bread and a nice glass of wine (Riesling is my favorite) completes this super easy dinner. I hope you'll give it a try! This dish is just begging you to take it outside and enjoy  summer dinner on the patio. 

Unfortunately for us, it was a cold and rainy evening, so dinner on the patio will not be happening at the Little Lake House. We are having ours with some pan-grilled kielbasa slices and homemade jalapeno ale mustard, which I must say, was quite delicious.

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