Tonawanda News — When I decide what to cook each week, I generally try to use whatever I might already have on hand at the moment as a starting point.
I have a small kitchen with very little storage space and my roommate has more than once mentioned we need to clean out the items cluttering the cupboards — he doesn’t realize they are kitchen staples I like to keep on hand.
Adding to that burden is the fact that grocery stores tend to sell items in a quantity this single cooker just can’t handle. Who really needs a bundle of cilantro that could keep you in Mexican food for a year? What am I supposed to do with the remaining 3/4 of a bottle of Karo syrup after I’m done making that one pecan pie each year?
This week it was a bunch of celery leftover from making a batch of potato salad (which I made because I had a bunch of leftover green onions from a previous recipe for quinoa chicken fried rice ... boy this could go on forever).
I searched through my Pinterest “to try” board and finally stumbled upon something that would use up the celery. Unfortunately, I ended up having to buy a bunch of other things that will sit in my cupboard to complete the following recipe ... shh, don’t tell my roommate.
The recipe is for a wheat berry salad with dried fruit, onions, celery and almonds. I’d never tried — both eating and cooking — wheat berries and this seemed like an opportune time to take a stab at it.
We normally encounter wheat berries after they’ve been milled to make whole-wheat flour. These little kernels are about the size of rice, though a bit shorter and wider. They cook up like rice, too, though take about twice as long. For this recipe to get the wheat berries to have a slightly chewy texture, it took about 45 minutes.
Set those babies to cooking while you chop up and prepare all the other ingredients for this tasty, crunchy, chewy and delightfully light salad. It seems pretty flexible, too. Substitute dried apricots for golden raisins. Maybe some chopped carrots or broccoli would work in place of the crunch of celery.
In the end I’m surprised I like this dish as much as I do. I’m not a fan of dishes heavy on the vinegar, and as I was preparing the rice vinegar/orange juice/honey mixture, the smell made me think the vinegar taste wouldn’t be as subtle as I hoped. Turns out, it was just on the outer edge in terms of how much vinegar I can handle. It was delicious, but next time I might add a touch more orange juice in place of some of the vinegar.
It might be something new for your palate, but well worth giving it a try.
Wheat berry salad
11/2 cups wheat berries
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup of dried fruit (I used a mixture of golden raisins and finely chopped dried figs)
1 cup finely chopped red onion
11/2 cups finely chopped celery
1/4 cup olive oil
zest of one lemon
1 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped (recipe also suggested using fresh mint here)
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the wheat berries by putting them into a medium pot and covering with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and partially cover. Cook for about 45 minutes or until wheat berries are slightly chewy. You can cook for more or less to adjust texture to how you like it. Drain off any excess water — there was none in mine — and set aside.
While the wheat berries are cooking, whisk the rice vinegar, orange juice and honey in a sauce pan over medium heat until boiling. Add dried fruit, take pan off heat and set aside.
This is a good time to chop your onion, celery, almonds and herbs, and zest your lemon.
Put the onions and celery in a large bowl and mix with wheat berries. Add in olive oil and lemon zest and mix.
Add vinegar and dried fruit mixture and mix in almonds and herbs. Salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy the salad lukewarm or cold.Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.