The Barefoot Contessa’s Wheat Berry Salad

There are many words one might use to describe me–“enthusiastic,” “smiley,” “mildly irritating”–but “hippie” probably isn’t one of them. Sure, I may walk around in sandals in the summer, but who doesn’t? And true, Janice is my favorite Muppet and my aunt Cindy (my dad’s sister) was photographed blowing a bubble at Woodstock (see here) but I’m too neurotic to be a hippie. My motto isn’t “Free Love,” it’s “Wash Your Hands After Touching Your Shoelaces Because They’re Really Dirty.” Which leads to a very important question: if I’m not a hippie, how can it be possible that I have not one but TWO recipes for Wheat Berry salad?

The first, of course, came from our friend Heidi and it featured lots of citrus and spinach and other flavor enhancers. The second, now, comes from our friend Ina–The Barefoot Contessa–(ok, she’s not really our friend–one can only dream) and it’s super easy and flavorful and relatively cheap.

Here’s the official recipe for Ina’s (click here), but you don’t even need an official recipe. Here’s what you do: buy some wheat berries. I bought soft wheat berries and only discovered later that Ina’s recipe calls for hard wheat berries. No matter. Bring three cups of salted water to a boil, add one cup of wheat berries, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook. After making wheat berries several times now, I find that cooking them for two full hours yields the texture I like the best; pliant, yet still slightly firm. (It’s easy to cook them to your preference, though; just start tasting after an hour until you like their texture.) Drain them well and put them in a bowl.

Once in the bowl, life has never been easier. You add olive oil and balsamic vinegar: the balsamic is a real zinger here, I wouldn’t leave it out. And sure food snobs turn up their noses at balsamic, but here it lends a fruity, winey essence that makes these wheat berries go POW. Ina says 6 Tbs olive oil and 2 Tbs balsamic, but I’d just do it to taste. Stir it all around, add some salt and pepper (make sure to taste), and let it sit while you do the next step. (The hot wheat berries will soak in all that flavor.)

Now take a red onion and dice it; heat some olive oil in a skillet and cook that onion just until it’s translucent, seasoning slightly with salt and pepper. Add the cooked onion to the bowl of wheat berries, stir all around again, and–finally–add 3 scallions minced (white and green parts), 1/2 a red pepper diced, and if you’d like a carrot also diced (though I left the carrot out.) Stir it all around again and here’s my final touch, stolen from Heidi (and something I think even Ina would like) add feta cheese, crumbled.

Boom! There’s your wheat berry salad: and if it eating makes you a hippie, so be it. Let the sun shine in your belly.

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