Hello there! We’re halfway through January, can you believe it? To be honest, the past couple of weeks have been a blur for me. Has it been that way for you too? After taking a little time to relax and enjoy the holidays, I’ve been completely overwhelmed getting back in the swing of things. It’s a good overwhelmed, though. I’ve been blessed with a lot of freelance photography and writing work, but as these things go I’m sure things will slow down come February. The freelance life is feast or famine. It’s been bitterly cold here in Colorado (daytime temperatures have hit a high of 5°F!), and I’ve been working from home trying to keep from getting the flu. How are you coping with the winter blues? I’ve seen a lot of bloggers organizing their pantries and whipping up brightly colored juices to boost the immune system. This time of year I kind of enjoy the challenge of cooking from the pantry (while the garden hibernates). One can only eat so much citrus, and so I try to find creative ways to infuse my meals with healthy produce. Today I’ve got a pantry meal for you that’s based on hearty, filling grains and relies on roasted red bell peppers from the jar for color and nutrition. Bon appétit!
Whole grains serve as a filling and nutritious base for winter salads. Wheat berries are whole-wheat kernels, and though they require a bit more effort than quick-cooking grains, the reward is in their nutty flavor and satisfying texture. Wheat berries should be soaked in water overnight and then simmered for about 45 minutes, but preparing them ahead of time on the weekend makes it quick and easy to add the grains to salads and soups throughout the week.
This winter wheat berry salad is made using pantry items like roasted red bell peppers from a jar combined with canned white beans, tangy capers, and creamy feta cheese. Fennel adds freshness to the salad, along with plenty of parsley. Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Fennel and Red Bell Pepper makes for a healthy and sustaining packed lunch or supper. If wheat berries are unavailable cooked barley or quinoa would be delicious in this recipe.
Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Fennel and Red Bell Pepper
serves 6-8 as a side salad, 4 hungry people as lunch
- 1 cup uncooked wheat berries
- 1 large bulb of fennel
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
- 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, or other white bean
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
- 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Soak the wheat berries overnight by placing the grains in a bowl and covering them with water. To cook the wheat berries, drain from the soaking water and place the grains in a medium pot with 1 ½ cups water. Bring the water to a boil, cover, and simmer until the grains are al dente, or tender but pleasantly chewy, about 40-50 minutes.
Roast the fennel. Heat the oven to 425°F. Cut off the top stalks and the hard base. Slice the bulb in half vertically and cut out the woody core. Chop the fennel roughly into bite-sized pieces, then toss with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven till tender and caramelized, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked wheat berries, fennel, red bell pepper, cannellini beans, and parsley. Make the vinaigrette. Place the capers and sherry vinegar in a bowl and gradually whisk in ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad. Season the salad with sea salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over the feta cheese just before serving. Enjoy the salad warm or at room temperature.