GRAINS AND GREENS
Years ago at a health conference in Baton Rouge, I decided to venture out for lunch. The humidity was almost unbearable, as it is about 90% of the time in south Louisiana, but I decided to brave it in search of fresh fare unique to the capital city. I landed at the curious Magpie Café, a quaint little noshery with locally sourced fare, both wholesome and indulgent.
While the spinach and artichoke panini on ciabatta sounded sublime, I opted for a lighter open-faced turkey sandwich with tomato jam, served with a side wheat berry salad— anything heavier and I’d have fought an afternoon of lethargy. This meal, as simple as it was, was one of the best meals I’d ever had, mainly because of this distinctive salad. I wondered how I’d never thought to throw delicious grains in a salad before. The nutty flavor and irresistible chewiness of the wheat berries were a fitting canvas for the bright tomatoes, sweet juicy grapes, and tender baby greens. Enlightened, I jotted down the ingredients to recreate it in my own kitchen.
It has since become a refreshing go-to salad, especially in hot summer months for parties or picnics. As a dietitian, I’m constantly looking for novel ways to inspire my clients to incorporate more whole grains in palate-pleasing ways. Whole grains keep you fuller longer, improve digestion, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Adding whole grains too your salad is a great way to lend interesting flavor, texture, and depth.
One Saturday last summer, I packed the salad for a hike with two friends at Cummins Falls State Park in Cookeville, TN. We made our way down to the gorge, enjoyed lunch on a boulder while taking in the spectacular view, and swam awhile before hiking back with enough energy to spare. With 7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per serving, this wheat berry salad is light enough for a quick snack, yet hearty enough to be the main event at mealtime.
In addition to wheat berries, amaranth, quinoa, bulgur, millet, farro and barley all bode well with leafy greens and peak-season produce. So head to any one of our farmer’s markets for culinary inspiration and prep the salad in advance, chill, and enjoy!
Other useful ways to incorporate whole grains:
WHEAT BERRY SALAD
1 cup wheat berries
1 cup red grapes, thinly sliced
½ cup marinated artichoke hearts
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 cups spring mix greens
1/3 cup green onion, chopped
¾ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 ounces goat cheese
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and cracked pepper to taste
1. Cook wheat berries in salted water for about 30-40 minutes
2. While wheat berries are cooking, dry roast sliced almonds in pan over medium heat until golden brown.
3. For the dressing, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Drain wheat berries and toss with grapes, artichoke, almonds, spring mix, and tomatoes. Top with goat cheese and green onion. Chill and serve.