Vegan lunches can — and should — be a lot more interesting than bare salads or carrot sticks and hummus. New Veganism columnist Gena Hamshaw will be sharing inspiration for midday meals that stave off both hunger and boredom.
Today: A grain salad to bridge spring and summer. This post was brought to you by our friends at Evolution Fresh, and was inspired by their Sweet Greens with Lemon Juice.
Grain salads are one of my summertime staples. They’re every bit as refreshing as green salads, but heartier and more filling. They keep well, they’re easy to prepare, and they are the perfect contribution to cookouts, potlucks, and other gatherings. They’re also a great way to expand your grain repertoire; I’ve made stellar grain salads with quinoa, rice, bulgur, farro, millet, and couscous. Each grain has its own taste and texture, and you can pick your seasonings and vegetable accompaniments accordingly.
If you’ve never tried wheatberries in a grain salad, you’re in for a treat. They demand a little more cooking time than some other grains, but their texture (chewy, dense, oh-so-satisfying) makes the effort well worth it, especially if you cook them in large batches. I’ve even prepared them in bulk and frozen them in two-cup portions; this makes it easy to defrost them as needed.
In this recipe, the wheatberries’ heartiness and nutty flavor contrasts with delicate spring and summer vegetables and a light, lemony vinaigrette. I love to keep the asparagus in this recipe crisp, and to add thinly sliced radishes for a little bitterness and crunch. I like to pack this salad up for work lunches paired with a refreshing fruit or vegetable juice — a sweet way to finish the meal!
1 cup hard spring wheat berries
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1 1/2-inch pieces, tops and stems separated
5 white or red radishes, sliced very thinly into rounds
1/2 cup walnuts pieces
2 spring onions, white and green parts included, chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil (plus more, as needed)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Black pepper, to taste
- To begin, rinse the wheat berries and place them in a large pot, along with a generous pinch of salt and 3 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer and cover it. Simmer the wheat berries for 35 to 45 minutes, or until they’re tender, but they still retain some chew. Drain them, return them to the pot, and toss them with a drizzle of olive oil to keep them from sticking together.
- While the wheat berries cook, toast the walnuts in a large skillet for a few minutes, or until they smell fragrant and nutty. Transfer them to a paper towel or a plate as soon as they’re browning lightly (they’ll keep cooking after they’re removed from the heat).
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the asparagus stems for 2 minutes. Add the tops and allow them to cook with the stems for another minute, or until all pieces are tender but still crispy. Plunge the pieces into cool water, then transfer to a strainer and set them aside.
- Whisk together the vinegar, oil, lemon, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix the wheat berries with the radishes, the cooked asparagus, the walnuts, and the onions. Add the dressing and combine everything well. Adjust seasonings and serve.
Photo by James Ransom