[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

When most people think about pressure cooker recipes, they tend to conjure up images of stews, braises, and other sorts of steamy, stick-to-your-ribs one-pot meals that enjoy the spotlight in the colder months. But don’t forget that an electric pressure cooker is also a valuable tool for summer cooking: because everything is self-contained, cooking under pressure doesn’t heat up the kitchen. So don’t neglect your Instant Pot just because even the thought of your favorite soup recipe is making you sweat… think outside the box! It may sound crazy, but this week I used my pressure cooker to make salad. I only wish I had tried it sooner, because you’re looking at an instant summer staple.

I think this was my first time eating wheat berries, and definitely my first time cooking them. These are the same kernels that they grind up to make whole-wheat flour, just kept intact and cooked thoroughly, resulting in a plump, chewy, flavorful grain, almost like a more robust short grain brown rice.

[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

Because September is Whole Grains Month, the dietitian in me is compelled to take a moment to chat about the special benefits of intact whole grains. I’m talking about whole grains consumed in their least processed form: merely hulled of their fibrous husks, but with the bran, germ and endosperm all in their natural state (examples include wheat berries, brown/wild rice, quinoa, farro, millet, hulled barley, and buckwheat groats). You can think of these as the ‘gold standard’ of grainy goodness. While processed whole grains (like whole wheat flour) still have the same richness in nutrients (fiber, protein, B vitamins, a bit of healthy fat, and essential minerals like magnesium), intact whole grains have the perk of an extra-low glycemic index. This ensures a slow digestion process, keeping you fuller longer and minimizing spikes in blood sugar that can contribute to chronic health problems. For more details, get a healthy dose of carb common sense from the Whole Grains Council.

So, wheat berries have a lot going for them. Now that I know how tasty they are, how super cheap they are in the bulk bins, and how easy they are to cook in the Instant Pot… I’m hooked!

This recipe started with a craving for Smitten Kitchen’s feta salsa, which I’ve made a few times as a party appetizer. I knew the rich flavors would be well suited to bulking up with hearty whole grains, and I figured fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of my best balsamic would kick it up to the next level of juicy summer freshness. What was once an indulgent treat is now a balanced meal, with just enough fat and salt from the feta and kalamatas to keep things interesting. Just the way we like it around here!

(You can, of course, make this without my loyal kitchen companion, Instant Pot. Just boil the wheat berries in 4-5 cups of water (add more if needed) for about an hour, until they’re tender, then go on with the recipe.)

[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

[Instant Pot] Balsamic Basil Wheatberry Salad

For the wheat berries
1.5 cups wheat berries (hard red winter wheat kernels)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cups water
1 pinch salt
For the salad:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1-2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1-2 oz. feta cheese
1 large handful each of fresh basil and fresh parsley, chopped

Begin by toasting the dry wheat berries to emphasize their nutty flavor: add the olive oil to the pressure cooker to cook over medium heat (press the 'Saute' button to begin cooking at medium saute heat). When the oil is hot, add the wheat berries and cook, stirring frequently. When the wheat berries are fragrant (after about 5 minutes) add the water and salt, then cook under high pressure for 30 minutes (press 'Cancel' to stop saute mode, then close the lid and press 'Manual' to select 30 minutes).

When the cooking time is complete, allow 10 minutes for a natural pressure release before opening the valve and lid. Drain the wheat berries in a colander and rinse with cold water to cool the grains.

Transfer the wheat berries into a large bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

https://flavorrd.com/2015/09/instant-pot-wheatberry-salad/

Instant Pot Recipe Index

5 New Ways to Love Quinoa

QUINOA. This little seed can bring a lot to the table. Not only is it a source of complete protein and rich in essential nutrients, but it’s also easy to cook to perfection, and the leftovers taste just as delicious as ever after days in the fridge. You will never regret setting aside a few minutes for weekend food prep to cook up a big batch of quinoa. When we supply ourselves with the right go-to ingredients, we set ourselves up for success to keep our kitchens stocked with healthy meals to count on all week long. Invest in your future!

This week’s surplus of healthy whole-grain inspiration comes from a blog collaboration with Rachael and Cara of Nutrition Milestones (remember them?). We got together last weekend for a cooking jam-session of sorts, and seriously, how great is my food nerd life that I’m lucky enough to have found other people who consider this a good time? Read on to learn what comes out of the kitchen when 3 RDs join forces to come up with some fresh takes on our favorite healthy staple!

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Nacho Average Kale Salad

Nacho Average Kale Salad
If you have trouble with healthy eating, never forget that it’s all about balance. To me, building a balanced meal isn’t just about pairing the steaks and lasagnas of the world with steamed veggies and lightly dressed salads… it’s also about enhancing the so-called rabbit food with a little touch of that opposite end of the spectrum. Hence, the perfect pairing under the spotlight today: SALAD and NACHOS.

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Sweet Chili Tofu Salad

Some people start the day with a crossword puzzle, but my morning mental exercise regimen is a little more practical. It involves staring into the fridge, jumbling together edible odds and ends to fill a lunchbox balanced enough to sustain myself through a day at the office. I’m usually pretty good at this game, so that’s my excuse for not being super organized with meal planning. But the day that I struggled to find a better “protein” than a bag of Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels… I knew it was time to get serious.

Last weekend I made a very minimal investment of time and efforts, which yielded big lunchtime results. It started with an idea to attempt a copycat recipe for the sweet chili tofu cubes stocked at the Whole Foods salad bar. For a time I used to live in an apartment right across the street from Whole Foods, and since this was during my busy grad student years, I built a pretty strong affinity for some of their healthy convenience foods. That salad bar saved me for dinner many nights, and those sweet, chewy tofu cubes were always a welcome addition to my leafy greens.

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Lemon Mint + Pineapple Kale Salad

I can’t get enough kale salad. In all seriousness, I think I might be able to actually FEEL it doing my body good. I still never get tired of my favorite kale slaw, but my repertoire seemed like it could use something a little more seasonal for summertime. This salad definitely fits the bill: all seasonal produce and so refreshing! It’s like if a pineapple mojito was a salad… not the worst way to eat a bowl of greens, right? Continue reading “Lemon Mint + Pineapple Kale Salad”

[Instant Pot] Greek Vegetable Soup

A funny thing happened on the way to writing this post. We’re only here talking about this soup today because two months ago on RD Day, I took the opportunity to scope out a list of fellow RD bloggers. On one of the many links I clicked, I came across a giveaway raffle and entered on a whim. And out of the zillion entries, I actually won! That day I gained an awesome new Mediterranean cookbook, and my first glimpse into what has become one of my new favorite RD blogs, Zen and Spice by the talented Emily Hein. This girl inspires me to live right! If you’re like me and love cooking/eating beautiful whole foods, growing some of them yourself, and generally taking a mindful and appreciative approach to it all, you should definitely check it out!

The book that I won in the giveaway is Eating the Greek Way, by Dr. Fedon Alexander Lindberg. Emily mentioned that this is one of her favorite cookbooks, and I can totally see why. The book features gorgeous photos and recipes featuring the kind of simple but perfect food I can imagine being served up in Mediterranean kitchens on real life weeknights. And now in my kitchen too! On my weeknights! Life is grand.

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Curried Chickpea Wraps

Last week I cooked up a big batch of chickpeas with intentions of hummus, but accidentally under-cooked them a little. They were tender enough to eat, but weren’t quite able to blend into a smooth puree, so I bagged them in the freezer for later use (in case you’ve never tried, this is a great way to store cooked beans – the texture doesn’t suffer at all from freezing/thawing).

When I rediscovered them while foraging my fridge for lunch on Saturday, I had visions of chana masala… but I needed something a little more casual. I don’t currently have a favorite recipe for the classic north Indian chickpea curry*, and at the time I wasn’t interested in dropping everything to find one. I just wanted the essence of the dish – spicy garbanzos – in a quick and simplified way. If I could also find a quick and simple substitute for the experience of an accompanying naan… that would seal the deal.

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Favorite Kale Slaw

Salad ruts can be a real problem. Maybe you’re a better planner than I am, but too often I find myself scrambling, raiding the usual suspects in my veggie crisper to throw together the same old boring salad to green-ify our dinner. It typically goes something like this: spinach or romaine, slivers of onion, slices of bell pepper, maybe an avocado if I’m lucky, and basic vinaigrette. It gets the job done, sure. I dutifully eat my greens, but time after time, it becomes a real snooze-fest.

And it’s a shame, because a good salad can be such a pleasure. Beautiful produce in its natural state, a contrast of textures, a tangle of harmonious yet unexpected components… Really, I’ve slacked long enough. I want to be eating good salads. Great salads. Mind-blowing salads! I want to gasp, not yawn!

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Masala Eggs with Spicy Kale

I know a lot of health foodies who hard-boil eggs in bulk… Even the manliest of athletes can embrace this cooking habit. Is this a part of your Weekly Food Prep? It was never a routine of mine, but after trying a few small batches, I’m finding them really handy. I rely heavily on eggs for at-home lunches, and my new hard-boiled stash has allowed so much more variety beyond my usual scramble.

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