I wasn't a fan of figs so I had no idea why I was so excited about them (wasn't, being the operative word here). I hadn't cooked with them before, and I don't seek them out at farmers markets. The most recent memory of figs for me was coming across some beautiful light green ones at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Farmers Market almost 3 years ago.
On my commute home, I was going through the recipe archive in my head. A little search on the interweb gave me tons of ideas but I went with the mixed greens, figs, and wheat berries combo. It sounded tasty, fool-proof enough to execute, and most importantly, I had a bag of uncooked wheat berries in the pantry. How often does the culinary stars align where you find a recipe and have ALL the ingredients for it? It was a sign from above.
This recipe was inspired by the Fig and Wheat Berry Salad with Blue Cheese. I'm "meh" about blue cheese so my version omitted that; I also skipped the pecans since I didn't have any nuts in my pantry that day. Nonetheless, the salad came out multi-dimensional with a chewy bite from the wheat berries. To make it 100% vegan, use agave nectar in place of honey.
Figs & Wheat Berries Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes 4 full-size meals, or 8 first-course size portions
8 medium to large figs, quartered
6 oz. salad greens of your choice
1 C wheat berries
3 to 4 C of water
Generous pinch of salt
4 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper
Rinse wheat berries then transfer to a deep saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil, add salt, stir, and reduce heat to low boil. It'll take about 50 minutes to cook but start checking on it after 30 minutes. Give it a stir and cover it to let it cook some more. You know it's done when you sample a few kernels and it has a chewy texture. Drain wheat berries and spread out on a large dish to let cool. (Some recipes suggest to soak wheat berries for hours or overnight; I found this step to be unnecessary since it doesn't cut down cooking time by much.)
While wheat berries cook, chop the shallot. In a large salad bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper then slowly stream in EVOO to make an emulsion. Add shallots, stir well, and reserve 1/3 of dressing for finishing the dish later. When wheat berries are cooled, toss with salad greens and dressing. Portion it out and arrange the figs on top. Drizzle reserved dressing on top and you're ready to dig in!
If you're saving leftovers for lunch the next day, reserve some greens and extra dressing to toss together when you're ready to eat. Soggy, wilted salads for lunch are delicious... said no one ever.
Wheat berries are a nutritious alternative to rice, cous cous, and quinoa. They are unprocessed and unrefined wheat kernels thus retaining a good amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals that would otherwise be lost in its refined counterpart. Each 1/2 cup cooked offers 4 grams of fiber, 3.5 grams of protein, and about 110 calories.