Nutritious Plate — Wheat Berry, Butternut Squash, and Kale Salad
“True healthcare reform starts in your kitchen, not in Washington” ~Anonymous
Wheat berry, butternut squash, and kale — three very nutritious ingredients are the foundation of this salad. I think they go well together and create a wonderful symphony of taste and texture.
Wheat berries, a true whole grain, are sturdy kernels that are ground to get wheat flour. These kernels hold their shape well when cooked. Chewy, nutty, and earthy, they are loaded with nutrients. Even though they take some time to cook, they are well worth the wait. You can cook extra and store in the fridge for 3-4 days to use later in different recipes. It’s always a bonus to have some component of a recipe ready to use. It just makes our lives easier. Wheat berries are a great addition to hearty soups and stews or satisfying salads and sides. And if you have sweet cravings, enjoy them with milk/cream, and honey with your favorite berries, dried fruits and nuts. Not bad. A bowl of cooked grains can find its way to a happy heart.
Butternut Squash, a power food, is a perfect addition to a wholesome meal. It provides several health benefits. Did you know that butternut squash is a fruit? Its seeds and skin are edible too. It is a winter squash that is available year round. My temptation to buy a winter squash among so many spring vegetables…… a perfectly shaped petite squash. Its graceful shape and size caught my attention. Small and easy to handle. I couldn’t ignore it. My favorite method of cooking butternut squash is to roast it. Roasting intensifies its sweetness and brightens its color. Most of all oven does the work. Cut it in half lengthwise and place it in the oven on a sheet pan cut side down and roast until fork tender. It saves the hassle of peeling the thick skin of the squash. Once roasted, scoop out the flesh or peel the skin. It keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days as well. It’s a little reminder of winter on a crisp spring day!
Kale, an ancient green, is like a popular star in town these days. A healthy one. It’s followed by its fans everywhere. It is tucked with pride on produce shelves, juice bars, and salad bars. Delicately packaged kale chips are visible at store fronts making their presence noticeable. And there are so many flavors of these paper thin chips to choose from. More choices to make among many other. When buying kale, look for tender leaves to use in salads. Remove the center stem which tends to be tough. We hear about massaging kale in salads. For this salad, it is not needed. Just remove the tough stem, stack and roll the soft leaves and cut thinly (chiffonade) like ribbons.
One thing in common with all three ingredients is that they all provide good amount of fiber. Excellent for our hearts and colon along with other benefits.
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
Zest of half an orange
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cumin, freshly ground
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Sea salt to taste
2 cups wheat berries, cooked
8- 10 oz. butternut squash, roasted and diced small
2 handfuls kale, cut thinly
1 tablespoon slivered almonds or to taste
Put all the ingredients for dressing in a screw top jar and shake to mix well. Set aside.
Wash and rinse 1 cup of wheat berries and cook in 3-4 cups of water for 50-55 minutes or until done.
While the wheat berries are cooking, cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out. Place it cut side down on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Roast at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until fork tender. Let it cool a little. Cut into small dice. Season with sea salt, a pinch of cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes, if you like heat.
Strain cooked wheat berries and let them cool for 10-12 minutes. Add kale and the dressing and mix well. Mix in butternut squash and combine gently. Keep in the fridge for an hour for the flavors to blend.
To serve, mix in slivered almonds, and arrange orange segments on the side.
Note: Cooking time for wheat berries may vary depending on the variety, hard or soft. Check the package for cooking directions. One cup raw wheat berries makes approximately 2 1/2-3 cups cooked. This salad tastes good the next day also. Make some extra if you have more cooked wheat berries and squash than the recipe asks. Just adjust the seasonings to your taste.
If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. – Michael Pollan