Monday, November 9, 2015

Wheat Berry and Squash Salad

My diet has been a bit wonky lately. I like to eat healthfully without getting neurotic about it (there is this thing called dessert after all). I like to center that healthful diet on homemade food with whole ingredients. Sometimes, much to my regret (and not a little shame), however, homemade healthy food just doesn’t happen. Packaged food happens. Ugh!

And then I get a little inspiration and I figure out how to split tasks into reasonable pieces to fit into the time that I have. And something wonderful like this salad happens. Oh, hooray!

It’s a simple combination of cooked wheat berries, roasted butternut squash, and the seeds I happened to have in the cupboard (pepitas and sunflower seeds). I tossed all this with some fresh sage and a vinaigrette based on a locally-produced sunflower oil and cider vinegar, and sweetened with honey.

I loved this salad! I loved the crunch of the onion and the seeds alongside the chewy wheat berries and almost creamy squash. I loved the sweetness of the dressing with the sweet roasted squash. I loved the overall nuttiness of the wheat berries, sunflower seeds, and pepitas. I loved the earthy zing of the fresh sage throughout. This was so good when I made it for supper (accompanied by this black bean soup), and I think it was even better in my lunch the next day. This is one of the best recipes I tried this year!

While I used that delicious locally-produced, cold-expeller pressed sunflower oil, olive oil or walnut oil would be good, too. I had originally planned to use walnuts before I remembered the seeds I had in the pantry, and I still think they would be good. You could make the salad vegan by replacing the honey with maple syrup or agave nectar. You also could use a different kind of winter squash. You could make this all at one time or, like me, you could break up the tasks. For example, cook the wheat berries when you have time; roast and chill the squash another day; etc.

There are too many recipes out there that will casually state the need for peeled and chopped butternut or other winter squash, without any mention of just how much time and effort it takes to peel and cut up a squash. This site does not tolerate such pretense. I find peeling and chopping winter squash to be grueling labor. I delay making great stuff like this just because I know how long it’s going to take me to get my squash in this edible state. In the case of this salad, however, it was all worth it! Delicious!

Wheat Berry and Squash Salad with Seeds and Sage

2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into ½ - 1 inch cubes
5 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt, divided
2 cups cooked wheat berries
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
½ cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
A few grinds black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine the cubed squash, 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt in a roasting pan or on a large sheet pan. Toss to coat the squash well. Roast at 400 F for about 30 minutes or until the squash is soft, but still holding its shape. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the wheat berries, pepitas, sunflower seeds, sage and cooked squash.

3. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, vinegar, honey, black pepper and Dijon mustard. Whisk together until smooth. Pour over the wheat berry mixture and gently toss to coat, being careful not to mash up the squash. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Cover and chill leftovers, which will last a few days.

Makes about 6 side-dish servings.

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