Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tomorrow's Lunch: Wheat Berry Salad with Cranberries and Almonds

A family that was out of town last week gifted us their CSA pick-up. It was great, because we opted not to subscribe to a CSA this year, and I'd forgotten how much fun it is to be assigned food I'd never think to buy. It also reminded me of why we don't subscribe to a CSA anymore, because it fills up our fridge with unfamiliar vegetables that are most delicious cooked when it's too hot to cook, and leads to tense discussions that include statements like "We already have so much food here," and "Fine, we'll have salad."

The lot included a brown paper bag that rattled when I shook it. Organic popping corn? Locally grown coffee? Nope - wheat berries. They look like barley and the internet disagrees as to whether or not they need to be soaked before cooking. I avoided the issue entirely and used the slow cooker, one of the most useful items in my kitchen because it lets me cook things without heating the place up during the summer. (We don't have air conditioning.)

So, into the slow cooker:
  • 3 cups chicken stock (Because we always have jars of chicken stock in the fridge. If you're not in the habit of boiling carcasses, use veggie stock or water with some salt and a big spoonful of whatever dried green stuff you have in your spice cabinet. You'll be fine. This isn't rocket science.)
  • 1 cup uncooked wheat berries (Do heed the warning that they're a natural product that should be looked over carefully because they may contain stems. I found stems.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Stir to combine. Make sure the slow cooker is plugged in, then walk away and do other things. I used the time to buy dried cranberries, eat something else for dinner, write a sketch, and watch Sondheim teach on YouTube.

(Best watched at home alone, so you can wear your headphones and sing along without embarrassment.)

After three and a half hours, come back, and add:
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries (Be sure to complain that the unsweetened kind are a full dollar more per pound than the sweetened kind.)
  • 1/4 cup almond pieces (Because pistachios were too expensive.)
Let it sit plugged in another half hour while you watch more YouTube.

(I like the "dolphin, dolphin, dolphin, dolphin" part.)

Drain and let cool. While it's cooling, mix up the dressing*:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice (Fresh-squeezed if you're feeling like a martyr, but the stuff in the bottle won't kill you.)
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 7 mint leaves, cut into a chiffonade if you're practicing your knife skills and just torn up into little pieces if you're not.
Toss with the stuff you already cooked. Makes two lunch-sized portions.

*This makes a little more dressing than you need. Save the rest for one of the other salads you're going to have to eat later in the week.

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