My dad and I work just 10 minutes from each other in Chicago, meaning that we get to have lunch together pretty often. One of our favorite spots is a little salad bar in the Sears Tower (I’m never going to call it the Willis Tower!), which reminds me of the Whole Foods salad bar – it’s loaded with so many healthy and delicious options that I end up trying a little bit of everything. It was there that I tried wheat berries for the first time, and I promptly made a mental note to begin experimenting with them at home. What I love about wheat berries the most is their sturdy texture and nutty quality, which means they hold up quite well to other ingredients and flavors.
This wheat berry recipe is one of my new fall favorites. It’s got sweet, juicy pears and cherries, crunchy toasted walnuts, refreshing spinach, and a balsamic syrup to top it off. The balsamic, which I normally think can be a bit too overpowering, really mellows out when you create a syrup from it – and it ties together the entire dish. The end result is a wonderful combination of sweet and savory flavors and a variety of textures. And I have to say that my favorite way to have fruits and vegetables is in a dish like this, where the whole is more interesting than the individual parts. In addition to a great lunch or dinner at home, I think it would also be perfect for a potluck, a Thanksgiving side, or a packed lunch.
If you’re new to cooking wheat berries, I highly recommend checking out this article from the Kitchn about how to cook them. You really don’t need to soak them overnight (it only saves 10 minutes of cooking time, anyways). And if you can’t find wheat berries, farro or barley would be good substitutes.
- 1 cup dried wheat berries
- 1 pear (I used a red d'Anjou), cut into small pieces
- ⅔ cup dried cherries
- ⅔ cup toasted walnuts
- About 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- For the syrup:
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Cook the wheat berries in 3 cups of water, with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover with a lid. After about 30 minutes, check on the wheat berries. If they have a chewy, tender texture, they are done. If not, continue checking on them about every 5 minutes (mine took 40 minutes to cook, but it all depends on the type you use).
- In the meantime, bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Continue stirring occasionally until the vinegar has thickened into a syrup, about 15-20 minutes.
- Once the wheat berries are done, strain them and let them cool for about 10 minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients, including the balsamic syrup, to the wheat berries. Toss well.