Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Beets, Kale, Toasted Walnuts, and Sesame Tahini Dressing
This is just one of many different seasonal grain salads that can be made with the Simple Sesame Tahini Dressing. You can vary the grain by using brown or other types of rice, farro, quinoa, or kamut. Likewise, vary the vegetables seasonally. In summer, you’ll want to use tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers; in fall, roasted squash and pumpkin seeds; in spring, sweet peas, asparagus, or fava beans. You could also add shredded leftover chicken, canned wild salmon, or hard-cooked eggs for protein.
Time Required: about 45 minutes active; 1 hour passive
Yield: 6 servings
You Will Need
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Trim the beets and wrap them in one or two foil packets, depending on their size, keeping like-sized beets with like-sized beets. Put them in a baking dish to prevent beet juice from leaking into your oven and roast until tender and fragrant, 35 to 40 minutes. Use a small paring knife or skewer to check for doneness. The knife or skewer should go in easily with a small amount of resistance. Set them aside to steam in their foil packets. When they are cool enough to handle, peel them by rubbing the skins off with your fingertips, and cut the beets into bite-sized wedges. Alternatively, the beets can be roasted up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated, left in their foil wrappers, until ready to use.
Lower the oven to 300 degrees F.
In a small baking dish, arrange the walnuts in a single layer. Toast until brown and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
While the beets are roasting and the walnuts are toasting, set a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and add the wheat berries and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat to a slow simmer, cover partially, and cook until tender and pleasantly chewy, 45 to 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the wheat berries sit until you are ready to assemble the salad.
Meanwhile, trim, stem, and wash the kale and put it in a vegetable steamer set over boiling water. Steam until tender and wilted, but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Remove immediately to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and squeeze out excess moisture. Chop coarsely and set aside.
When all the ingredients are ready, drain the wheat berries and transfer them to a serving bowl. Add the beet wedges, kale, and walnuts. Add the dressing and toss thoroughly. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve immediately or within 2 hours at room temperature. The salad can also be covered and refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Tip: I like to roast beets this way whenever I have the oven on for something else. It’s an energy-saving strategy and a great way to have cooked beets on hand for adding to salads anytime.
Simple Sesame Tahini Dressing
Besides being tasty on grain and Asian noodle salads, this dressing is also fantastic drizzled over grilled fish or chicken or fresh sliced tomatoes, or used as a sandwich spread. Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds, used often in Middle Eastern cuisine (it’s one of the essential ingredients in hummus). You can find tahini in both raw and roasted versions, in either jars or cans. It is produced both domestically and overseas. Look for it in health food and specialty stores and in the world foods aisle in some grocery stores. Any type of tahini can be used in this recipe. I buy locally produced organic, raw tahini from Artisana. Tahini should be refrigerated after opening as it goes rancid quickly.
Time Required: about 10 minutes active
Yield: about 3/4 cup
With a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. In a blender, combine the garlic paste, tahini, 1/3 cup water, the lemon juice, honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil and blend until smooth. Season with salt. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.