asparagus & wheat berry salad

toss up a world of flavour with this delicate & hearty asparagus & wheat berry salad

photos by erica blair

My offering to you this spring is a celebratory salad of delicate asparagus on a backdrop of satisfying nutty whole wheat berries, with a nice shot of fresh mint to wake up your palate. I encourage you to take this outside for that first picnic and rejoice in the new season.

A few notes on preparation. Whole wheat berries require either a long soak or a lengthy cooking time. Soak berries for several hours or overnight; alternately you can proceed without soaking them, but they will take twice as long to cook. If pressed for time, this salad would be equally good with quinoa, which cooks quickly.

For those of you with sensitivities to gluten, kamut and spelt contain a more digestible form of gluten than wheat and are prepared in the same manner as whole wheat.

When shopping for ingredients for any recipe, remain aware of your options. For example, if you feel like trying this recipe in the summer when asparagus is no longer in season, try it with diced cucumbers rather than South American imported asparagus. Buy grain grown as close to you as possible, and cultivate a spirit of flexibility and creativity.

asparagus & wheat berry salad

4–6 servings
preparation time: approx. 1 hour, plus soaking time for wheat

2 c. whole wheat berries
8 c. water
generous pinch sea salt
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends trimmed
4 stalks green onion, finely chopped
½ c. toasted slivered almonds
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey (optional)
zest of one lemon, finely chopped
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1    Soak wheat berries overnight in cold water. Drain. Cover with water and sea salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 30 minutes. Unsoaked wheat will take approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hours to cook. Drain and refrigerate to cool.

2    Blanch asparagus whole until crisp-tender (about 3 minutes, variable depending on size) in boiling salted water, then shock in an ice bath to halt cooking and preserve bright green colour. Remove and drain well. Cut asparagus into 1-inch lengths on the diagonal.

3    In a large bowl, toss cooled wheat with asparagus, green onions, almonds and mint.

4    In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients and pour dressing over salad. Toss to combine. Adjust seasonings and serve. This salad is best served the same day.

Jessica Collins is a freelance private chef and Ashtanga student living in Montréal, Québec. Feeding people health-supportive, delicious food with love is the driving force in her life. She will be attending the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York this spring.

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