Whiskey & Wheat Berry Salad

Whiskey & Wheat Berry Salad Recipe

This morning I opened my eyes and was greeted with a beautiful day. The chubby robins that live in the trees out front were chirping and the sky was big and blue and punctuated with cotton ball clouds. We got things started with a couple of coffees (Wayne is the barista around here), and then made our way to a friend's house a few doors up the block for an Easter egg hunt and brunch. Ann asked me to bring a salad, and instead of bringing one of my standbys I decided to wing it and try something new. The inspiration came from an appetizer I tasted last week at the IACP Conference in Denver. At the opening party, chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja served a brioche crostini topped with a subtly-smoked goat cheese. The edges of the goat cheese were rolled in a chopped herb salad, and the cheese was then finished with whiskey-soaked yellow raisins and toasted pine nuts. It was a fascinating explosion of sweet and smoke, booze and tang. I thought the components in her crostini would be great deconstructed and put into play in a wheat berry salad. So that was the plan this morning.

Whiskey & Wheat Berry Salad Recipe

I mashed a touch of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers into some goat cheese to give it that smoky back note, and soaked the yellow raisins overnight covered in whiskey with a bit of brown sugar. I tossed some little gem lettuce into the salad for color and crunch - the little leaves ended up being perfect for scooping up wheat berries. I made a simple dressing with olive oil, a bit of lemon zest/juice, and the whiskey leftover from soaking. The only thing that took anytime with this salad was boiling the wheat berries - something you could do a day or two ahead of time.

I hope you all had a nice weekend - I have to say, it's days like today that I really love where I live. I feel lucky to be flanked on all sides by friends and familiar faces. Today being the exception, on our block, the backyards don't seem to get much use. Everyone seems to like sitting out front, on their steps chatting, people watching, playing with the kids. On the nicest nights of the year, someone inevitably opens a bottle of wine, another neighbor might bring over a bit of cheese and bread, more and more glasses come out as people make their way home from work. It's pretty great.

Whiskey & Wheat Berry Salad Recipe

1 pound wheat berries, cooked*
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup whiskey
1 tablespoon natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
5 ounces goat cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of one lemon
fine grain sea salt
1 cup pinenuts, toasted
3 big handfuls of lettuce, spinach, or arugula
scant 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (or other chopped herbs)

Cook the wheat berries and set aside.

Place the raisins in a small bowl, add the whiskey and sugar, and let soak for a couple hours (or overnight). When the raisins are done soaking, drain off (and save) the leftover whiskey. You'll use it in the dressing.

Mash the goat cheese with the adobo sauce until it is well incorporated and set aside.

Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, 3 tablespoons of the whiskey (leftover from soaking the raisins), and a couple pinches of salt. Whisk well and set aside.

Just before serving, in a large bowl, gently toss the wheat berries, raisins, pine nuts, lettuce and a few more pinches of salt. Sprinkle with goat cheese and oregano, toss once or twice and serve.

Makes a party or potluck-sized salad.

*To cook wheat berries: Combine the pound of wheat berries with about 8 1/2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy (and a few of the berries split open), about an hour or so. The berries will stay al dente, and the only way to be sure they're done is to taste a few. Drain and set aside.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

  • the whiskey is such a creative touch! I've been experimenting with wheatberries and pearled barley recently and will definitely have to try this out.

    renaissancetrophywife
  • Anything that hints of goat makes me gag. Is there a specific brand of chevre that has no goat overtones? Or could one substitute feta? HS: I think I'd maybe drain some yogurt into a yogurt "cheese" and try that.

    Pozole
  • As good as this recipe sounds, the description of your neighborhood sounds truly like a dream. I am most definately living on the wrong coast!

    Janice
  • Your recipes are refreshing ,creative and healthy .Apart from your creative genius , I like the way you present it .Like a story teller and that is the best part ! I have become a big fan of yours Thanks Ashish Naithani(I forgot to ad my name so posting it again

    Ashish Naithani
  • Your recipes are refreshing ,creative and healthy .Apart from your creative genius , I like the way you present it .Like a story teller and that is the best part ! I have become a big fan of yours Thanks

    Anonymous
  • uh huh...a little whiskey? That should add some zip to good old wheat berries? best, s

    s. stockwell
  • Oh lovely! I actually have been kind of into wheat berries lately...I cook them, then let them sit overnight in ale. You could layer your alcohols!

    Laura [What I Like]
  • Heidi, Goat cheese mixed into adobo with an oregano accent- what a great idea! I love how this recipe brings out the textural elements and harmonizes with the sweet/smokey/woody flavors of the whiskey- nice! I wonder... have you ever paired goat cheese with a fruit paste and Spanish dry sherry? Hey Kathy! I have! I bet you could remix this salad with fruit paste and sherry vinaigrette and it would be a totally different direction to go in.

    Kathy Fitz
  • I made the carrot soup today and embellished it with leeks and some half and half to give it a creamier texture. I think it made an already great recipe better. Thanks J.G.

    John Govoni
  • Interesting touch with the whiskey! I love wheatberries. Last week I cooked wheatberries and green lentils together, spontaneously spicing it up with some cumin, turmeric, and coriander. It was simple and great topped off with a dollop of yogurt. We had our annual Easter Egg hunt in the backyard. I love to garden and am out there all the time, but watching kids poke through the little corners and undiscovered spots gives me a new and very enjoyable perspective on my own garden. Deana

    Deana Gunn
  • What a lush and lovely garden for an Easter egg hunt! I love wheatberries but hardly ever remember to actually make them. When I was in chef school a million years ago, I used to boil up a pot of them and eat them for breakfast with honey and cinnamon - the perfect ballast and shot of fiber to get my stomach through a day of cooking and eating French classics. When you ate at Rioja, I hope you also got a chance to sample one of Jennifer's dishes that contained black garlic aioli. It was fantastic! HS: I didn't! Unfortunately I didn't make it to Rioja for a proper meal - next time though.

    Dana McCauley
  • This is very interesting- a great combination of flavors. I can't wait to give it a try!

    fresh365
  • What kind of wheat berries did you use? I recently saw this recipe and asked my mom for some wheat berries (she grinds her own flour) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/dining/184mrex.html?ref=dining She gave me white spring berries and red winter berries to try in it. Just looking at the berries make me think the white spring will be more tender because they look larger and softer then the red. The flavor might be better with the red though. I ran out of seseame oil so experiementing is on hold until I get to the store. HS: I play around with different types. Some are plumper and chewier than others. I started buying Massa wheat berries on occasion at my local market (they also grow amazing brown rice. But I'd just say experiment, and make note of the differences.

    Rachel
  • Isn't it an awesome feeling to look out the window and see the sun shining? It was a great feeling here as well. Especially since we've had crappy weather the last couple of weeks. Happy Easter!

    chris@tacosalad
  • Very creative! I think that the lettuce gives a beautiful contrast in texture and color to the wheat berries. Sounds yummy!

    Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet
  • Great idea for wheat berries - I've had some sitting in my pantry for a while with no plans for them. What interests me most about this recipe, though, is the combination of goat cheese and adobo sauce. I'm sure mixing the two together softens the adobo so it doesn't overpower the many other flavorful ingredients of the salad (like the pine nuts, mmm). Nice recipe!

    Allison
  • I thought you had to soak wheat berries overnight. Does the boiling suffice? HS: I rarely remember to soak wheat berries.

    unconfidentialcook
  • Well this looks fantastic, and now I have something exciting to do with all of the wheat berries I just cooked up!

    Jodye
  • Heidi, somehow I can't imagine you as a whiskey drinker! Anyway, my roommate and I have a bunch of Jack Daniels in the pantry, so I'll be sure to give this a try sometime soon--maybe with some barley instead of wheat berries! HS: You're right! I'm totally not. I bought two little airline-sized bottles to make this.

    Sam
  • This sounds absolutely fantastic! I'm not a lover of whiskey, but I'm sure it will be wonderful melding with all those other fabulous flavors in this salad. I've dreamed of going to the IACP--it's always so far away from where I live, though!

    Ricki
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