Recipe: Wheat Berry Salad with Blood Oranges, Feta & Red Onion Vinaigrette

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In my recent pantry reorganization, I found a bag of wheat berries I'd been meaning to use. A simple salad with some winter citrus and salty feta seemed like a good idea, and it all turned out very tasty. Light yet satisfying, this makes a perfect lunch or dinner side salad this time of year.

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The textures of this salad are good. There's the juiciness of the blood oranges, a crumbly creaminess from the cheese, and the chewiness from the wheat berries. As for the flavors, oranges and feta are great together, and my dressing mirrors that sweet and tangy combination with onions, vinegar, and a bit of sugar.

What's missing is some color. I desperately wanted to add something green, but what? I went with a handful of parsley — nice, but boring. Green beans didn't seem like a good fit. It needs to be light and not too overwhelming, but interesting. Maybe some arugula stirred in? Or thinly sliced napa cabbage?

This was a very satisfying, healthy lunch. But I'm looking at it as a work in progress. What would you add?

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Tester's Notes

This is my ideal kind of late-winter salad. It satisfies my craving for hearty dishes, but also manages to be light and healthy. A nice change from all the rich stews and roasts of the season!

I love the chewy pop of the wheat berries paired with the oranges and feta. I agree with Elizabeth, though, and think this salad needs a little something. My favorite addition is a handful of crunchy fennel. I also doubled the amount of wheat berries from Elizabeth's original recipe to give the salad some more substance and balance out the juiciness of the oranges. This change is reflected in the recipe below.

I think this makes a great lunch all on its own. To make it into dinner, I just add some sliced chicken breast, baked fish, or even a simple poached egg.

Note that you'll make more vinaigrette than you need for this recipe, but the leftover dressing is fantastic on green salads or as a marinade. The onions also make this pureed dressing thick and creamy without adding eggs or other ingredients. I love it!

- Emma, January 2013

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Wheat Berry Salad with Blood Oranges, Feta, and Red Onion Vinaigrette

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side salad

For the vinaigrette (makes 1 cup):
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (from about 3 sprigs)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper

For the salad:
1 cup wheat berries
2 medium blood oranges, or other citrus fruit
3 ounces feta cheese, cut into chunks
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Optional: 1 cup diced fennel, diced radishes, sliced green onions, or diced celery

To make the vinaigrette: Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer the onion mixture to a tall-sided container, along with the vinegars, extra-virgin olive oil, sugar, salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. (Alternatively, blend in a blender or food processor.) This dressing will keep refrigerated for several weeks.

To make the salad: Bring 4 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add a teaspoon of salt and the wheat berries. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the wheat berries are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the warm wheat berries with 6 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Stir to combine. Cut the blood oranges into segments (supremes) and dice small. Add the orange pieces, feta, parsley, and any additional vegetables to the wheat berries. Toss and serve.

Leftovers will keep refrigerated for one week.

This recipe was originally published March 2009.

Per serving, based on 2 servings. (% daily value)
Calories
861
Fat
51.6 g (79.5%)
Saturated
12.3 g (61.6%)
Carbs
88.7 g (29.6%)
Fiber
14.6 g (58.6%)
Sugars
19.7 g
Protein
16.8 g (33.5%)
Cholesterol
37.8 mg (12.6%)
Sodium
1272.2 mg (53%)

(Image credits: Emma Christensen)