[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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Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is taking its sweet time making its way to San Diego. And the infinite scroll on my Pinterest feed just offers too many pages of impeccably styled autumnal foods for my own good. With the allure of cool days and pumpkin-everything, there’s only so much more I can take of ice water and chopped salads for dinner. If you’re in the same boat, I wish I had a better solution than this one: let’s pretend. This week, I suspended my disbelief long enough to fire up the oven and whip up this roasted seasonal squashy treat. So worth it!

The result was savory, satisfying, and absolutely LOADED with nutrition. And while it gives off the vibe of a fancier weekend dinner, this thing is a 40 minute meal! I can hardly think of an easier way to break into the new season and fulfill your hearty home-cooking dreams.

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[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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Polenta-Crusted Asparagus and Feta Quiche (Gluten-Free!)

Most of the time when I make a baked egg dish, it’s a frittata. Crustless and effortless! I love them, and they’re such an easy way to pack in protein and veggies… but sometimes I have to break it up with something just a little bit more special. Pinkies up, folks: it’s quiche time!

This recipe was posted and revisited recently on a blog that inspires me CONSTANTLY, Take A Megabite. I couldn’t pull out my grocery list fast enough – I mean, cheesy veggie-filled quiche in a polenta crust? You don’t have to tell me twice. After baking it, the thing was just so gorgeous and unique that I couldn’t help but whip out the camera and wax poetic about it over here. Just too good not to share!

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Garlic Kale & Feta Bagels

Before I made nutrition my livelihood, I wouldn’t think twice about grabbing a giant sesame-coated carbohydrate monstrosity on my way to a morning lecture. These days I still eat them on occasion (a life without bagels is no life for me), but dietitian thoughts creep in. I can’t help but think of the inflammatory properties of flour, the insulin spike caused by the high glycemic load signalling to the body’s fat cells to plump up, and the anticipation that the refined starch will digest in a flash, leaving me crashing before lunch. It’s funny because there are plenty of RD-dubious foods I eat without a care, in interest of moderation. Maybe it’s because bagels are breakfast, and I feel pressure to start the day off right. A wise person described breakfast as the “gateway drug” for the rest of the day’s eating… how apt is that!? I definitely find that my morning meal sets the stage for the day, and I love fueling up on a breakfast that makes me feel good. So I set out to see if I could achieve that experience while, well… still getting to eat a bagel.

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Saucy Roasted Greek Vegetables

It was harder than I thought it would be to choose the inaugural recipe here. As time goes on, I’ll be happy to feature anything and everything that passes through my kitchen, but as your first glimpse it seemed important to kick off with something that sets the stage for my style of eating.

Of course, this made me gather some thoughts about what reflects my “style”. While I like cooking all kinds of dishes, the major focus of my cooking efforts is getting a wholesome meal on the dinner table. Like many families, dinner is the meal that we are most likely to enjoy together, and might I add, there’s just something climactic about the evening meal. After the challenges of the day, dinner gives the opportunity to slow down and turn our attention to nourishing ourselves. I love that about dinner.

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