March 10, 2010

The Second Course


Wheat Berry Salad with Peas, Roasted Asparagus and Spring Onions


Bright, verdant, springy flavors are making their welcome appearances, providing inspiration to those of us who cook. As spring ingredients make their early arrival in the market, new ideas pour forth as from a prolific artiste.


As I recently mentioned, eating in courses is our usual mode. From the first course of artichoke with lemon, and and garlic dipping sauce we had the other day, we moved on to this lovely spring main course. The 2006 Pierre Sparr Alsacian Pinot Gris continued to delight us through this course as well. The idea for this salad was born from darling Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks, and I adapted her farro salad recipe to fit our tastes and available ingredients. It's great for a spring day that still has a nip in the air as the wheat berries give it substance while the other components satisfy our springtime cravings for foods bright, green and fresh.
Wheat Berry Salad with Peas, Roasted Asparagus and Spring Onions
4 cups cooked wheat berries*
2 cups cooked yellow split peas**
1 cup green peas, boiled 30 seconds if fresh, thawed if frozen
4-5 basil leaves, finely chopped
4-5 tablespoons finely snipped chives, plus extra for garnish

18 spears asparagus, trimmed
18 spring or green onions, trimmed
olive oil
salt

big splash Citrus Parmesan Vinaigrette***

several handfuls fresh baby spinach
Parmesan shavings for garnish

Directions
Turn oven to 400F degrees. On a baking sheet, toss asparagus and spring onions with a bit of olive oil and salt. Roast for about 30 minutes until well browned (you're going to love the tastiness in this dish, so don't cut it too short here), tossing once midway. A toaster oven works wonderfully here.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, toss wheat berries, yellow split peas and peas with Citrus Parmesan Vinaigrette. Gently mix in herbs.

In serving bowls or serving platter, lay down a nice bed of spinach. Spoon the wheat berry mixture on top, gently tossing with the spinach, but leaving the wheat berry mixture mostly on top of the leaves. Artful top with the roasted asparagus and spring onions. Sprinkle with Parmesan shavings and additional chives.
Makes about 6 servings.

* To cook wheat berries: Combine wheat berries, salt and enough water to cover by about an inch in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer about 1 hour. The berries will still be al dente to the touch, so be sure and taste it for doneness, avoiding overcooking into a glop.

**To cook dried yellow split peas: Bring 3 cups water to boil in large saucepan, add 3/4 cup dried yellow split peas, and cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Drain, salt to taste.

***Citrus Parmesan Vinaigrette: In a small jar, shake together the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1 chopped shallot, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1/2 cup olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
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