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Roasted Root Veggie and Wheat Berry Salad

January 20, 2010

Yes, Im still being brave and experimenting with foods I dont normally cook with and loving it!  I saw a recent post on David Lebovitz’s blog that incorporated roasted root veggies and wheat berries in a winter salad, and thought this would be a perfect new recipe to try.

The veggies: parsnips, turnips, rutabagas

This recipe was extremely easy and quick, apart from the long boiling time needed for the wheat berries, which I did a day ahead.  I cooked them for longer than the 40-60 minutes that David recommended, and they were still very chewy in the end.  Im not sure if I was using an especially tough variety of wheat berries (I think the ones I bought were red wheat berries), but I was surprised by how long it took to soften them up.  The texture worked here and added heardiness to the dish, but if you dont like your pastas/grains al-dente, I would think about using something different.  Ive also heard that people soak them overnight before cooking them, so that can be another option. 

My favorite part of the making of this dish was how amazing the root veggies and thyme smelled while in the oven.  The roasting really brings these veggies to life and completely transforms them.  You just toss them with whole thyme branches, and after roasting, the stirring separates the thyme leaves, so you can easily pick out the branches.  I was a bit skeptical about adding the dried fruit, not being sure if the added sweetness would be a good thing, but I was amazed at how well it complemented the vegetables.  I used dried apricots, chopped them up well, and even a tiny piece of the fruit gave each bite a nice kick.  I also added a bunch of fresh parsley since my brain automatically links this herb with wintery vegetables and really enjoyed it (and the extra green color in the salad).

Recipe

adapted from David Lebovitz
Six to Eight Servings
1 1/2 cup (300 g) wheat berries
one bay leaf
2 pounds (1kg) assorted root vegetables [i used parsnips, turnips, rutabagas] peeled and cut into thumbnail-sized cubes
1/3 cup (80 ml) plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
10 or so branches of fresh thyme
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup (60 g) dried apricots (or craisins, dried cherries, etc)

handful of chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).
1. Bring 2 quarts of well-salted water to a boil, then add the wheat berries and bay leaf. Cook until tender, but still chewy.  This should take about an hour.
2. While the wheat berries are cooking, toss the diced vegetables on a baking sheet and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and thyme, seasoning with salt and pepper.
3. Roast the vegetables in the bottom third of the oven, stirring once midway during baking, for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and browned on the outside.
4. Once the wheat berries are cooked, drain them well, plucking out the bay leaf. Transfer the wheat berries to a bowl and mix in 1/3 cup (80 ml) of olive oil and the dried fruits, stirring well. Taste, seasoning with more salt if necessary
5. Stir in the root vegetables, remove branches, and do a final check for seasoning and add more salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and additional olive oil, if desired.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Storage: Can be made up to three days in advance, and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before serving.
David also had a great list of possible additions:

  •   Toasted and coarsely chopped pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts
  •   Cubes of feta or bleu cheese strewn over the top
  •   A big squeeze of fresh lemon or tangerine juice, or some zest
  •   Sautéed mushrooms tossed in with the root vegetables
  •   Wilted greens, cooked with garlic, coarsely chopped
  •    Served warm with roasted meat, chicken, or vegetables and any pan juices scraped over the top
  •   A generous handful of spicy arugula or flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
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