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A simple wheat berry salad full of flavorful Mediterranean ingredients — this is a great salad to make ahead for healthy meals all week long.
Let’s talk about healthy, quick-cooking whole grains, starting with a recipe for wheat berries.
This salad has all that full-on Mediterranean feeling – with spicy harissa, olive oil and tangy roasted tomatoes charred right on the stovetop.
Farro is one type of wheat berry that’s become a pantry staple for a lot of us.
I make a quick risotto with cannellini beans that’s one of our family faves.
It’s hard not to like its nutty, barley-like texture — plus the fact that it cooks in about 20 minutes.
What are wheat berries?
Wheat berries can include variety of whole wheat grains such as:
- Common wheat berries – usually hard winter wheat kernels
- Farro – an ancient grain related to emmer wheat
- Freekah – green durum wheat that is roasted, giving it a smoky flavor
- Spelt – a distinct type of wheat grain (Triticum spelta) that’s lower in gluten.
Are wheat berries healthy?
Like all whole grains, whole wheat kernels are full of nutritional benefits.
Because the kernel, which includes the seed and husk, is left intact on wheat berries, they are full of protein, iron and fiber.
How to cook wheat berries:
Depending on the type of wheat berry you have, they can either be soaked before hand or simply boiled in water like pasta.
After soaking, the easiest way to cook wheat berries is in boiling water. They take about an hour to cook.
Farro or freekah can be prepared exactly the same way, but they’ll take less than half the time to become tender.
I’d originally planned to roast a few supermarket vine-ripened tomatoes I had on the counter — my go-to method for tuning up their somewhat bland, out-of-season taste.
But I forgot to turn on the oven!
So I put the whole tomatoes over the gas flame for a few minutes until their skins were black and blistered.
The combo of smoky tomatoes, nutty grains and creamy ricotta is satisfying and delicious.
I’m glad I had the book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals on hand while researching and cooking this post!
Wheat Berry Salad with Charred Tomato
- 1 ½ cups soft wheat berries or farro
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon harissa paste
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 or 3 small vine-ripened tomatoes or ¾ cup canned fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) red wine vinegar
- 2 big handfuls baby arugula
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, or chickpeas, drained
- ½ cup fresh whole milk ricotta
- Soak the wheat berries in enough water to cover, either overnight or before you go out for the day. If using farro, you can skip this step.
- Bring 3 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a saucepan. Add the drained wheat berries. Simmer for about an hour, or until the wheat berries are plump and al dente when you test one. If they seem too firm, cook up to an additional 15-30 minutes, keeping in mind that when fully cooked they will retain a small bit of “chew”. If cooking farro, boil 20-25 minutes until tender.
- Drain all but a small amount of water (1 or 2 tablespoons) from the wheat berries. Put the hot wheat berries back in the pan and stir in the garlic, smoked paprika, harissa or chili and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
- If using fresh tomatoes, char them directly over a gas flame on your stovetop or under a hot broiler. Turn them with tongs until their skins are blackened and blistered. Chop into rough pieces and add them (or the canned tomatoes) to the wheat berries.
- Transfer the wheat berries to a serving bowl and toss with the vinegar and arugula. Taste and season with salt if needed.
- Dollop with spoonfuls of ricotta and drizzle with a little more olive oil before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Substute chickpeas for the cannellini for extra protein and nutrition.
- Leftover salad will keep up to 5 days refrigerated in a covered container.