I’ve been reading up a lot on how to make good use out of whole grains. Most of us are used to eating refined grains and grain products, and don’t really use whole grains in our everyday cooking. So I ambitiously went to the store and stocked up on a bunch of things that I realized, when I got home, I had NO CLUE how to make taste good.
In this case, wheat berries. A wheat berry is the whole wheat grain (except the hull)- and has oodles of nutrients like selenium (which helps thyroid function), magnesium (which has anti-inflammatory properties, helps nerve function, and assists in bone-strengthening), and dietary fiber. In short, very good for you. But the question still remained- How do I cook this thing?
After thinking up various combinations of wheat berry + other ingredients, I decided upon pairing it with roasted butternut squash. Now, a lot of people use butternut squash in soups, but I actually really love the heartiness of it when roasted and kept in chunks as opposed to pureed. It has a delicious earthy-sweet flavor and a gorgeous texture. The smoothness of the squash I thought would contrast nicely with the bite of the wheatberry. Since you can’t have a salad without a little cheese, I added the tangy goat cheese to balance the sweetness of the squash. And the spinach, well, that was just for being over-the-top nutrient-wise. And it saved me from having to make a main course as this salad is quite filling on its own!
*Note- since the wheat berries take a while to cook, I would suggest cooking them a day or two in advance if needed, storing them in the fridge, and then reheating when using for the salad. I was able to do this the day of, but I did have some time on my hands.
Makes 2 entrée-sized portions, or 3-4 side servings
1/3 cup dry wheat berries (whole wheat grain- found in supermarkets), soaked in 2 cups water for at least 2 hours or overnight
2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed to bite-sized pieces
Sprinkle of olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
6 tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp maple syrup
3-4 oz goat cheese
6-8 oz baby spinach
3 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds
Cook the wheat berries in about 3 cups water over medium-low heat for about 1 ½ hours. When they are done, they will be tender but with a little bite to them, and you will see the insides smush out (seriously, that’s the only way to describe it! See photo below).
|Cooked Wheat berries|
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°. Place the cubed butternut squash in a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine, then bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and place aside.
Drain the cooked wheat berries and add them to the baking pan with the butternut squash. At this point, the squash and wheat berries should still be warm.
To make the dressing, combine the orange juice and maple syrup. Pour over the squash and wheat berries. Spoon the squash-wheat berry mixture over the spinach, crumble the goat cheese over it, and sprinkle with toasted sunflower seeds. Serve and enjoy!