We are now at the height of tomato season, which means it's a common occurrence in our house to make a simple meal of good crusty bread, tomatoes, and salty cheese. Maybe a few soft boiled eggs or some cold potato salad. I always look forward to this season of effortless cooking and impromptu meals that almost make themselves.
This easy grain salad is an example of one such meal: we had cooked wheat berries on hand; I picked up fresh tomatoes and corn at the market; and for dinner, we just folded in basil, goat cheese and a bold lemony dressing. The result? Our new summertime go-to salad.
Summer flavors are often big and bold and can carry a dish all on their own. That's how I feel about sweet tomatoes and fresh corn: you don't need much more.
So while this salad is relatively easy to throw together, the flavors are assertive and memorable. The lemony dressing boasts both lemon juice and lemon zest, giving it a big brightness that will leave you wishing you'd made a double batch for your next bowl of summer greens.
And like most good summer recipes, this salad is easily adaptable. Don't have wheat berries or don't care for them? Any hearty grain will work great; try farro, barley, sorghum or barley.
If you'd prefer to use different vegetables or a salty, firm cheese, that's an easy change to make, too. I've done a version of this salad with diced zucchini and ricotta salata instead of the tomatoes and goat cheese, and it was pretty incredible.
In short: no rules. Summer cooking should be easy and effortless — this salad is a good start.
Wheat Berry Salad with Tomatoes, Corn and Basil
For the salad: 1 cup wheat berries
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced (about 1/3 cup)
2 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels cut away (about 1 3/4 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
3/4 cup minced fresh basil
1/2 cup feta or goat cheese
For the dressing: 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
Combine the wheat berries, 3 cups cool water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until wheat berries are tender and have absorbed most of the liquid (see Cooking Note, below). Remove from heat and leave covered for ten minutes. If necessary, drain away any excess water.
In a large nonstick skillet, warm the olive oil and add the shallot. Cook over medium heat until just soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the corn and increase heat to medium-high. Cook corn until it’s just beginning to brown on the edges and soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
To prepare the dressing, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper until smooth.
Toss the cooked wheat berries, corn mixture, tomatoes and basil together with the dressing in a serving bowl. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Fold in the goat cheese and serve room temperature (it’s also good cold). Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days.
Cooking the Wheat Berries: The cooking time for wheat berries can vary dramatically depending on the type of wheat berry you buy. I like to start checking them at about 30 minutes to see how they're doing. You're looking to see that the grains are tender but not tough. I find that the whole grain wheat berries I buy generally take all of an hour, so don't be alarmed if they take quite a while to cook fully. And save a little time by cooking them in advance!
It may seem a lot of dressing at first, but the wheat berries will continue to soak it up a bit.
I've found this salad is actually best when made the day before and has a chance to settle into all of its flavors.
If you like your corn softer, you can boil it on the cob for 10 minutes or so before slicing the kernels away. I tend to like tender but firm kernels in this salad, so I opt not to.