I don’t believe I’ve mentioned my love affair with farmers’ markets here in previous articles. The entertaining Mill City Farmers’ Market (for delicious vendor fare and people watching) and the amazing St. Paul Farmers’ Market (for fresh produce and locally-sourced meat and eggs) are my happy places. I absolutely love being surrounded by all of that fresh, healthy, vibrant produce, as well as visiting with the local farmers about their offerings. Our family’s weekend adventures almost always start with a trip to the market. I’m glad it’s a tradition that my kids will carry with them, even if at their ages, they have to be bribed with the promise of kettle corn.
This dish is an example of how I try to incorporate my farmers’ market purchases into what we eat a few nights of the week during Summer. I’m a grain enthusiast, so I chose wheat berries for this salad. Wheat berries are the entire delicious wheat kernels with the hulls removed. They are firm, chewy, and “toothsome”, and really add heft here. You can soak them over night and boil them the next day for softening, or just boil them longer when you are ready to make your dish. Fresh, garden-grown spinach is abundant right now and pairs beautifully with the wheat berries. Throw a bunch crunchy radishes and a few onions on and you’re almost set.
Two additional ingredients really make this salad work: the dressing– with the sublime combination of lemon and shallots– and ricotta salata cheese. This is my favorite cheese for summer salads, as it’s creamy and subtle with just the right amount of saltiness. You can substitute feta, though use the ricotta salata if you can find it. Both the dressing and the cheese balance the hearty texture and flavor of the grains, and really brighten up this salad.
The Recipe: Spinach and Wheat Berry Salad with Lemon/Shallot Vinaigrette
1 cup red winter wheat berries
2 cups (or more) fresh garden spinach, torn
5-6 radishes, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
ricotta salata cheese, crumbled
To make the wheat berries: soak in refrigerator overnight in 3 cups of cold water. Rinse the next day and place in saucepan filled with 3 cups of cold water and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a medium simmer. Cook for 35-40 minutes, or until wheat berries are soft and have a “chewy” feel to them. Drain and toss with half of the vinaigrette. The warm wheat berries will soak up all of the wonderful flavor. Let cool before completing the salad. (Note: Feel free to make extra wheat berries for a later use. They freeze well and can kept frozen for up to a month.)
Lemon and Shallot Vinaigrette:
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons of shallots, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
To make the vinaigrette: Mince the garlic and shallot and place in a bowl. Mix in the lemon juice, vinegar, and salt and let soften for about 15 minutes. After the shallots have softened, slowly whisk in the olive oil.
Combine the spinach, radishes, spring onion and wheat berries in a bowl. Toss with the remaining vinaigrette and top with the crumbled cheese. Enjoy and healthy eating to you all!
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