One of the best compliments of someone’s cooking is when others use your recipe regularly. Many people may ask for a recipe, but they may not venture to make it. It likely gets added to the ever-growing list of recipes to your ‘to-try’ file (and oh, am I guilty of that!). The biggest compliment is when a great cook adds your dish into their repertoire… especially when that fabulous cook is your mom, who can do no foul in the kitchen.
This is one of those dishes that my mom has lifted from my files and I figured it was about time I shared it with everyone else. I have already professed my love for wheat berries, the nutty, chewy kernels of wheat and this was the recipe that got me hooked. Wheat berries are combined with a sweet citrus dressing, paired with some greens (mixed, spinach, watercress, whatever!) and crunchy nuts. This makes a light yet filling salad, perfect all year round. I adapted this recipe from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers.
Now a diversion regarding food photography: I attended a talk by food photographer Robert Wigington through the Toronto Camera Club last week. Granted food bloggers are very generous with their tips on how to get that perfect photo, and some have photographed their own cookbooks, but I get curious how the professionals do it. I actually eat the food I feature in my photos, and try not to let the food get too cold. Robert has shot food photos for numerous cookbooks, magazines as well as for companies like President’s Choice. I liked how he highlighted the importance of the food stylist, who makes and styles the food.. But not necessarily with the real recipe – a roast turkey would be cooked for 20 minutes, not hours! He rarely eats the food, probably because it isn’t real! While shooting a shot of a pizza slice with dripping melted cheese, he could go through 10 pizzas over a morning of photographing, just to get that perfect shot.
My favourite tip from the night, though, was how he loved reflections to convey whether a dish was moist or juicy. Usually I try to eliminate odd shadows or reflections, but I think these shots show how the reflections from the dressing work well with the first photo. The second one, below, doesn’t look as appealing and I blame it on the lack of shine.
Wheat Berry Salad with Almonds and Spinach in a Citrus Dressing
1 cup wheat berries, rinsed
2 cups baby spinach/mixed greens/watercress, washed and dried
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lime or lemon
1 cup almonds/pistachios/walnuts, toasted and chopped
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 tbsp minced shallot or green onion
2 tsp maple syrup
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1. Add the wheat berries to a large saucepan filled with enough salted water to cover them by several inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, partially cover and cook the wheat berries until they are plump and tender, about 75-90 minutes. Test as you cook; cooked wheat berries are still somewhat chewy. Drain and set aside to cool completely.
2. Add the spinach to the wheat berries, along with the carrot, cranberries and citrus zests.
3. To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Just before serving, combine dressing with the wheat berries and gently mix. Garnish with toasted nuts. If you are not serving the salad the same day, store it and the dressing separately, covered, in the refrigerator.