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Hearty and Heart-Healthy

May 17, 2010

image courtesy of foodnework.com

By Lauren Johnson

This past weekend, while preparing for a backyard barbeque, I went on a hunt for a new and exciting side dish.  We were expecting about 25 people, and knew that our guests would be arriving throughout the afternoon and into the evening, so I wanted to find something that would stand up to being out for some time and wouldn’t wilt or get dry or soggy.

I perused the bulk grain section at my local supermarket and spied organic red wheat berries – a grain I have enjoyed in the past in salads for its fabulous chewy texture.  I had never made it myself, so decided to give it a try.

I try to use local and organic ingredients whenever possible (and available), and for this recipe, found that the local honey really complimented the nuttiness of the wheat berries and the wonderful toasted flavor of the walnuts.  I imagine that other dried fruits like apricots, cherries, figs, or dates would work nicely in this recipe as well, as would nuts such as pecans if you so prefer.  The combination I used, however, seemed to be a winner, and everyone enjoyed several helpings.

Red Wheat Berry Salad with Dried Cranberries, Golden Raisins, and Toasted Walnuts

4 C organic red wheat berries, rinsed and soaked in water (enough to cover) overnight.

1 medium-sized bunch of parsley

1 C of organic dried cranberries

1 C of organic golden raisins

1 C crushed English walnuts, toasted

1 medium-sized white onion, peeled and diced.

juice of 1 lemon

½ C Dijon mustard

½ C local honey (wildflower or clover)

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation:

Wash the wheat berries well.  You can wash them in the sink with the use of a strainer, or add them to a bowl, stirring and changing the water until the water is clear and not cloudy. Put the washed berries in a bowl and cover them with about two inches of water.  Cover and let soak overnight.

After the berries have soaked, put them in a medium sized stockpot and cover again with 2’’ of water.  Boil for about 1 hour.  Wheat berries will be chewy but soft enough to chew when fully cooked.  When done, remove from heat and drain off the water.  Put in the fridge until cooled completely.

Peel and dice a medium-sized white onion, and set aside

Wash and remove the stems from the parsley. Dice coarsely, and set aside

Line a baking sheet or toaster pan with tin foil and spread out the walnuts evenly.

Toast for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees, until slightly golden.

Dressing: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and honey (it helps if the honey is at room temperature so it will mix evenly).

Remove the chilled wheat berries.  Mix in the dressing.  Stir well.

Add the onions, parsley, cranberries, golden raisins, and walnuts. Add a few turns of fresh cracked pepper. Mix thoroughly.

Salt to taste.

Transfer the finished salad into a serving dish to share and enjoy.

Healthy Roundup:

Wheat berries are a whole grain, so they’re high in dietary fiber, minerals, and nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin E, and B complex vitamins.  Previous studies have shown that those who eat a diet high in whole grains are less likely to be overweight and to have heart disease.

Raisins, being high in fructose and glucose, are good sources of energy, and these little dried snacks are also high in iron and boron, a micronutrient necessary for proper bone formation and calcium absorption. Raisins also contain antioxidants that help protect eyes from free radicals, and the oleanic acids in raisins can help protect teeth against tooth decay, cavities, and brittleness.

Walnuts are very high in omega 3 fatty acids, as well as manganese, copper, and tryptophan. Walnuts, along with pecans and chestnuts, have the highest concentration of antioxidants amongst tree nuts, and a study conducted in Barcelona, Spain indicates walnuts promote heart health and blood vessel function in a variety of ways, including reducing bad cholesterol and increasing the elasticity of the arteries by 64%.

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