Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wheatberry salad with roasted fennel and honey-citrus vinaigrette

It's hot in Boston. At least, it's hot enough to be hot in a city where no one has air conditioners. This is not weather for making a hot dinner.

Let's make a salad of things.

Yes. Let's make a salad.

Wheatberry salad with roasted fennel and honey-citrus vinaigrette

  • 1 c. dry soft wheatberries
  • 1 large bulb fennel, root base removed
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil for roasting
  • Kosher salt and coarse-cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. stone-ground mustard
  • 1 juice orange, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil for vinaigrette
  • 1 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 c. dried cherries, diced or sliced
  • 1/4 c. dried nuts (pistachios, pecans, or walnuts recommended)
  • 1/2 c. crumbled or diced feta, drained

This week's box from our CSA had wheatberries in it. These are new to me. They're the raw kernels of wheat, dried; it's the raw stuff that becomes, for example, flour, but before all the cooking and grinding.

We'll end up boiling these as a cereal, but first we need to pre-soak them. Put your wheatberries in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them generously.

Soak them for an hour or so. Strain off the soaking water, then put the wheatberries and four cups of clean cold water in a large saucepan. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so so they don't stick in the pan. If they still have any crunchy center at the end of 45 mintues, continue cooking until they're completely chewy. If any water remains at the end of cooking, strain it off. Rinse the wheatberries in cold water (as you might do to pasta), then drain and set them aside.

Meanwhile, heat an oven to 350°F. Cut the root base and the frond stalks off your fennel, setting the fronds aside and discarding the tough base. Cut the bulb into slices about 1/4" thick. Gently break the slices apart into their component pieces, then toss the pieces in a pan with olive oil and some kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Put the pan in the oven to roast for 45 minutes or so. It's done when the fennel has softened and has a nice golden hue. Remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool.

Take a few of the reserved stalks and cut off the fronds. You don't need all that your fennel had; if your fennel looks anything like mine, this could be a lot:

Cut up enough fronds to get a small handful. Reserve these, discarding the rest of the stalks.

Separately, measure the mustard and orange juice into a small bowl. Whisk them together. Continue whisking vigorously while adding olive oil in a slow stream. Once all the oil is in the mixture, add the honey, the zest of the orange, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk to combine and set aside.

When all the components are ready, combine everything—wheatberries, roasted fennel, vinaigrette, dried cherries, nuts, fennel fronds, and feta—in a large bowl. Toss to combine.


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