Well, I had to do something with all that vegetable stock I made last week, so I decided to cook up some whole grains. Specifically, some wheat berries, which are the entire wheat grain—its bran, germ and endosperm, minus the hull. They contain a lot of fiber and protein. This makes them a great choice for vegetarians.

Unfortunately, they also contain gluten. So the salad I created for a party on Sunday was a no-go for those who have celiac disease or are gluten-sensitive. If you are gluten-free but still think you might enjoy this dish, consider replacing the wheat berries with quinoa, a grain with a softer texture that is really a grass but still loaded with taste and protein. We’ll look at this substitution as we go along.

My salad is inspired by the popular middle-eastern dish tabbouleh. But I’ve tried to bump up the protein and give it some special twists. It might look a little daunting because some ingredients require multiple steps, but the wheat berries and the beets can be prepared the day before, and the rest is just pretty much toast, crush, chop and assemble. Great to take to a party or make for several quick and healthy weekday meals.

Green Gal Tabbouleh

Ingredients prepared the day before–

  • Two to three cups whole wheat berries, pre-soaked in cold water at least five hours—can be overnight—and then cooked over medium to low heat in about four to four and a half cups of vegetable stock until tender-chewy, about an hour. Chill. Note that wheat berries do not absorb all of their liquid. Before you assemble the salad, you may need to let the wheat berries drain in a colander over a bowl for an hour to get rid of excess liquid.
  • If you are using quinoa, skip the soaking. Rinse two cups of quinoa in cold water and then place in a saucepan with four cups of stock—two to one ratio and cook just like rice, lowering the heat and covering the pot until the stock is absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Chill.
  • beets cooking in a pan

    Depending on the freshness of your beets, the cooking time can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 50 minutes. Beets from the market are super fresh and naturally tender, so they become soft quicker.

    Four medium beets, washed, peeled, sliced and quick-pickled, then set aside to chill. To pickle the beets, place them in a pan with one cup of water and one cup of apple cider vinegar—my all-time favorite is Bragg. Bring them to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook just until fork tender. Cover the pot and steep for about an hour or so to let the beets “pickle.” Then drain and chill—for at least four hours or overnight.

  • A half cup chopped, dry-toasted walnuts. Cool and store in a covered bowl.

Ingredients prepared at the point of assembly–

  • A medium-sized shallot, minced
  • Two medium carrots, diced
  • One medium cucumber, diced
  • One cup diced bell peppers, preferably orange and red (very pretty)
  • About one cup finely chopped greens (I used beet greens and kale, but arugula would be a nice choice, too.)
  • Spices in skillet and mortar and pestle

    Whole spices that are dry toasted become aromatic and highly flavorful. Spend time crushing them into a fine flavorful powder for your dressing.

    A half tablespoon each, white mustard seed, black peppercorns and coriander—all dry-toasted in a cast iron skillet and crushed with a mortar and pestle.

  • One teaspoon fine-grind sea salt
  • A half cup dried unsulfured apricots reconstituted in about a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes—drain and set aside
  • Two tablespoons each fresh chopped Tai basil and mint leaves (Genovese basil will do, but Thai adds a little Asian flair that works well with the mint.)

Final Preparation—

  1. Begin by preparing a dressing: combine three to four tablespoons of red wine vinegar with one tablespoon of honey and about a third of a cup extra-virgin olive oil. Whisk thoroughly and add the toasted spices that you crushed with a mortar and pestle and the sea salt. Whisk again.
  2. Now put the following in a big bowl: the wheat berries (or quinoa), shallot, carrot, cucumber, peppers, apricots, basil, mint and chopped greens.
  3. Dice some of your beet slices and add them to the salad. (Use some of the full slices at the end to decorate.)
  4. Add the dressing into the salad and toss with a large spoon; add the toasted walnuts over the top, and decorate with the beet slices and a sprig of mint or basil.
wheat berry salad

This salad is party-pretty, feeds a crowd and keeps well in the frig. Time well spent in the kitchen.

I know this seems like a complicated dish—after all, you even made your own stock! But this is really flavorful and much can be accomplished in advance. For one thing, it makes enough to feed an army and keeps well in your frig for several days of leftovers. You’ll still have some leftover stock for something else, and you can always double up on the beets to use as a quick salad add-in later in the week.

Do you have a favorite original recipe—something you’ve taken over the top? Do you use leftovers in creative ways? Please share!