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Archive for May, 2010

Wheat berry salad with butternut squash, hazelnuts, red onion and arugula

I realized a few things about myself when I organized my pantry several weeks ago.  First, I can’t stop buying coconut milk.  You would think 6 cans would be enough, but apparently it is not.  I also seem to be a lot more adventurous in the grocery store than I am once I’m actually in the kitchen.  My shelves are full of unusual ingredients like millet or dried adzuki beans that I’m ashamed to say I’ve never even used.  I have all these lofty ambitions of trying new and exotic recipes when I’m shopping, but on a time-crunched weeknight it always ends up being easier to go with an old standby.

Case in point: wheat berries.  These had languished neglected in the cupboard for months.  Luckily I had just the recipe in mind to try them out, and as a bonus got to incorporate another aspirational pantry item: the hazelnuts that never quite managed to get turned into cookies last Christmas.

The salad was absolutely addictive and delicious, and the leftovers made for a week’s worth of great filling and healthy lunches.  I loved the chewiness of the wheat berries combined with the crunch of the toasted hazelnuts.  It’s the perfect example of how something composed of simple whole foods can still have you sneaking bites with a spoon straight from the fridge.

Butternut Squash, Wheat Berry and Hazelnut Salad

Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes approximately 8 cups

1 1/2 cup wheat berries
One bay leaf
One medium sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
Half a large red onion, thinly sliced
~1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 T. dried sage
1 cup whole hazelnuts
1 cup baby arugula, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

2. Thinly slice the red onion and combine in a small bowl with the red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt.  This will lightly pickle the onion and tame the sharp onion flavor a bit.  Set aside while preparing the other components.

Red onions soaking in red wine vinegar

Red onions soaking in red wine vinegar

3. Chop the hazelnuts, and toast them in a skillet over medium-low heat until they are fragrant and starting to brown.  I think hazelnuts are probably better with the skins removed (they are slightly bitter) but I am lazy and I didn’t mind them.  Transfer the toasted nuts to a bowl and set aside.

Chopped hazelnuts

Chopped hazelnuts

4. Bring about 2 quarts of salted water to a boil, then add the wheat berries and bay leaf. Cook until tender, but still a little chewy.  Mine took around 45 minutes to get there, but could probably have cooked longer as my sore jaw can attest.

5. While the wheat berries are cooking, toss the diced squash on a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the sage, and some salt and pepper.

Diced butternut squash, seasoned and ready for baking

Diced butternut squash, seasoned and ready for baking

6. Roast the squash, stirring halfway through baking, for about 15 minutes total.  The cubes should be tender when poked with a fork and browned on the outside but still firm enough to hold their shape in the salad (mine were on the overly mushy side).

7. Once the wheat berries are cooked, drain them and remove the bay leaf. Transfer the wheat berries to a bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the toasted nuts.

8. Stir in the roasted butternut squash, the red onions and the chopped baby arugula.  Taste the salad and add some of the vinegar that the onions were soaking in if it needs a little more acidity.

There are so many ways this basic formula could be adapted, see the original post from David Lebovitz for more great ideas.

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