Wheat Berries With Roasted Beets and Ginger-Curry Vinaigrette

June 24, 2007

Wheat Berries With Roasted Beets and Ginger-Curry Vinaigrette

From WashingtonPost.com reprinting “Once Upon a Tart . . . Soups, Salads, Muffins, and More,” written by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau with Carolynn Carreno (Knopf, 2003).

Roasting beets intensifies their natural sweetness, which provides a nice contrast to the earthiness of the wheat berries. Although there is a lot of chopping involved, there is ample opportunity to chop while the wheat berries are cooking and the beets are roasting.

8 cups cold unsalted water
1 1/2 cups wheat berries
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 pound red beets, scrubbed, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
4 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/2 cup dried cranberries (may substitute dried cherries)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup Ginger-Curry Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted (see NOTE) and coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cook’s note: Wash wheat berries in a bowl of water.  Impurfities will float to the surface. The small black seeds are  mustard and amaranth seeds that were harvested with the wheat.  They are harmless and can be left with the berries.

Place the water and wheat berries in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the wheat berries are tender but still chewy, about 1 hour. (The only way to test them is to take one out and bite into it.) Drain the wheat berries in a colander and transfer to a bowl large enough to accommodate the entire salad. Drizzle the vinegar over the hot wheat berries and toss to combine. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cut the beets in half. Place the beets in a mixing bowl, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat. Then place the beets cut-side down (to get a nice brown side) on the sheet. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, until the beets are easily pierced with a fork. Let the beets rest until they are cool enough to handle. Use a small paring knife to peel them, discarding the skin; cut the beets into 1/2-inch dice and set aside.

Scatter the onion, celery and cranberries over the wheat berries. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the salad and toss to combine. Drizzle about 1/2 cup of the Ginger-Curry Vinaigrette over the salad and toss it with a big spoon or your hands. Add additional vinaigrette as necessary. (May cover and refrigerate for up to several hours.)

Scatter the pecans and beets over the salad and toss gently to combine. (If you’re going to wait a long time before serving it, wait to add the beets since they will stain the wheat berries and turn the salad purple.) Serve at room temperature or chilled.

To toast nuts:

*Note: To toast nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and place in a 350-degree oven, shaking the pan occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully; nuts burn quickly.

Ginger-Curry Vinaigrette

This flavorful dressing can turn just about any grain into a tasty salad. Makes about 1 cup.

Juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Madras
1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, curry powder, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, until the mixture is emulsified. Taste and adjust the ingredients accordingly.

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