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Why You Should Be Making More Grain Salads

April  3, 2014

Every week we take a peek inside the lunches of the luckiest kids in Brooklyn. Read on, suppress your jealousy, and get a little brown bag inspiration.

Amanda's Kids' Lunch from Food52

Today's wheat berry salad almost didn't happen -- when I read the cooking instructions on the side of the winter wheat berries package, they said the berries needed to be cooked for 2 to 5 hours. That's quite a range. Still, I forged ahead, convinced that no grain (that I would want to eat) would take 5 hours to cook. Turns out, I was right. Wheat berries take about 90 minutes, simmered in lots of salted water. 

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You may have noticed that I'm on a grain salad kick. They're healthy, blah, blah, but the overriding practical reason is that while the grains simmer, I can cook a bunch of other food for weeknight dinners. The wheat berries simmered as I made this soup, these beans, and this pie. I also roasted some butternut squash for the berries, folding the two together, along with some olive oil, red wine vinegar, and leftover bacon -- which I wouldn't say was the most thoughtful addition to the salad, but when has bacon ever harmed a dish? This morning, after spooning the salad into containers, I topped it with chopped almonds, crumbled goat cheese, and a few slices of salumi. For dessert: clementines and chocolate chip cookies. 

What's in your lunch today? See some of the twins' past lunches

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • beejay45
  • Shalini
  • Amanda Hesser
    Amanda Hesser
Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


beejay45 July 31, 2014
You know, Amanda, you can cook those wheat berries in your rice cooker, only takes about 30 minutes. I used to cook Kashi pilaf (Whole Oats, Brown Rice, Rye, Hard Red Winter
Wheat, Triticale, Buckwheat, Barley, Sesame Seeds), but now I buy my own grains and make different mixes. Easy-peasy, no soaking either, just cook them as though they were rice.

Of course, that doesn't leave you as much time to do all that other cooking. ;)
Amanda H. August 3, 2014
Thanks so much for this tip -- I'm now inspired to *buy* a rice cooker!
beejay45 August 4, 2014
Heh. I've got the rep of being a crank about rice cookers, but for about $30, you have something that lasts 10 years or more and can cook rices, grains, lentils, heck, I bet you could even cook small beans in it (although I've never tried). As long as you don't put in too much liquid, nothing gets mushy, and on lentils this can only be a good thing.

I've been using mine since I was in my teens (much longer than I'll admit to). I don't know what I'd do without the thing -- set it and forget it at its best. ;)
Shalini April 4, 2014
I admire that you were able to cook so many things at once. Wheatberries are on my list, but first those soupy, garlicky beans! And the pie...