What kale was to 2014, grain salads will be to 2015 – and with good reason. Whole grains, like wheat, oats, millet and barley, are an excellent source of fiber and plant-based protein. They are identified as ‘whole’ because they have all their edible parts still attached, just as nature intended. This is why whole foods are the most nutritious and beneficial for us to eat.
I personally love grain salads because they are satisfying and really versatile. The formula I stick to is: a cooked grain, a roasted vegetable (sweet potato, squash, cauliflower, etc.), a leafy green vegetable, a bright vinaigrette, and a fun topper, like cheese or a bit of bacon. For this recipe, I went with fried halloumi cheese as the “fun” ingredient. Halloumi is a cheese of Middle Eatern origin. It looks and tastes sort of like packaged mozzarella (salty, rubbery), but – magically – it doesn’t melt when fried. It softens and crisps up instead, taking on a strong umami flavor. You can find halloumi at the cheese counter of most markets, and if you’ve never tried it, do yourself a favor and pick some up. You will not regret it.
For the salad:
- 1 cup wheatberries, soaked overnight in cold water
- Sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 2 cups tightly packed baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
- 8 1/4″-thick slices of halloumi cheese (about 4 oz)
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon brown mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
- 1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Drain and rinse soaked wheatberries and place in a medium pot. Add enough water to cover wheatberries by 4″, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, cover tightly with a lid and bring to a boil. Then turn heat down to a simmer, and cook for 40-50 minutes. Cooked wheatberries will retain their shape and have a chewy texture.
- Meanwhile, roast the potatoes. Preheat oven to 400F. On a baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil and generous pinches of salt and pepper. Bake until softened and caramelized, 20-30 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking.
- To make dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a bowl.
- To fry halloumi, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Fry halloumi slices for about 40 seconds per side.
- To assemble, toss together cooked wheatberries, warm potatoes, celery, spinach and dressing in a bowl right before serving. Top with fried halloumi and serve immediately.