Saturday, September 08, 2012

Christmas in September

Yesterday was a hot hot day, so I thought a nice summery salad would be in order. For inspiration, I visited Oh She Glows, which is an awesome vegan food blog. Definitely check it out! I decided to adapt Angela's Back on Track Wheat Berry and Bean Salad, which I also like to affectionately call "Christmas in a Bowl." It's a super pretty salad with lots of Christmas-y red and green colours. The original recipe called for navy beans which I didn't have, so I decided to use some beluga lentils that I had pre-cooked in the freezer. If you're not familiar with beluga lentils, they're a pretty little black lentil that kind of looks like beluga caviar when cooked, hence the name. If you don't use lentils in your cooking on a regular basis, I encourage you to start! They are excellent sources of protein, fibre, and iron. My favourite kinds are French puy lentils (yummy just cooked on their own as a side dish), and red split lentils (which mash up well and work nicely in pureed soups). I came across the beluga variety at Whole Foods and of course had to try them!

Wheat berries are the whole wheat kernel without the hull. They come in a few varieties and two colours - red or white. The ones I used for this salad were the soft white spring variety,which take less time to cook than the hard kind and don't need to be soaked overnight. For hard wheat berries, just soak them overnight like you do with beans, then boil/simmer for about an hour. Soft wheat berries just need to be boiled/simmered for 60-90 minutes. Wheat berries stay nice and chewy, so they work really well in salads.

Here's a great post by fellow blogger Desiree at Eat Drink Be Happy on the book Wheat Belly by cardiologist (note: he's not a nutritionist!) William Davis. I agree with Desiree's review of this book - wheat is not evil! If you're not celiac or gluten-sensitive, consuming wheat is totally fine and even good for you, as long as it's wheat in it's whole form. Wheat berries are wonderfully full of nutrients, including lots of protein and fibre. It would be a shame to take them out of your diet simply based on the recommendations of someone with little to no nutritional training! Here's a tip when you read books on diet: always check the credentials of the person writing the book (are they a nutritionist? do they have real training in nutrition?), and look for the claims in the book to be backed by peer-reviewed studies. Those two checks will help you determine whether the book is really a reliable source of information.

And so, here is a yummy, nutritious, wheat-filled recipe:

Christmas-y Wheat Berry Salad
Yield: about 8 cups

1 cup dry wheat berries, cooked and drained
2 cups/500 ml cooked beans or lentils
1 English cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, diced with large stems removed
Sea salt + pepper, to taste

Dressing Ingredients:
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp mustard of your choice
1/2 tbsp soy sauce (MSG free and low sodium!)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1) In a medium bowl, soak the wheat berries overnight in cold water (if using hard wheat; if using soft, skip this step). The next day, drain the wheat berries and place in a medium sized pot, covered in three inches of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and simmer for one hour (may need 90 minutes if using soft wheat). Drain and cool.

2) In a large bowl, mix together the diced vegetables and minced garlic.

3) Add in cooked and drained beans or lentils and stir.

4) In a small bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

5) When the wheat berries are ready, drain and rinse. Stir into the salad. 

6) Add the dressing just before serving and stir well. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Doesn't it look Christmas-y? Or maybe that's just me wishing for some cooler weather... my school has no air conditioning and it's been way too hot this past week. Someone please remind me in a couple of months that I asked for cooler weather!

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