Since Jeff and I moved to Chicago last September, I’ve been consciously trying to make healthy meals nearly every night. Chicago is a meat-and-beer kind of town (seriously, the beer lists here rival the wine lists in Southern California for breadth and general awesomeness!), and while we want to explore everything the city has to offer, we like our arteries reasonably un-clogged. Moderation in all things ;).
The first recipe in my Restorative Recipes series is one of my go-to healthy meals: roasted veggie and wheatberry salad. The version I make most often is vegetarian, but you can make it vegan simply by leaving out the feta. I also often make this with quinoa in place of wheatberries, particularly if I get a late start on dinner, since wheatberries take at least an hour to cook.
The recipe here makes quite a lot – Jeff is a champion eater and so vast quantities are the norm in my life. When I used to make this for myself, I’d get dinner and at least three lunches out of it, so if you don’t want leftovers, use less veg and less wheatberry. As with most things I make, the list of ingredients is more of a suggestion than a rule – if you don't like parsnips, or don’t have an eggplant, but you LOVE bell peppers, swap away!
My weapons of choice.
You will need:
1 cup wheatberry (can substitute quinoa!)
3 ½ cups water
2 yellow squash
1 small red onion
1 tbsp salt
¼ tbsp. ground black pepper
other seasonings to taste (I use ground coriander, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, a hefty dose of cayenne, a dash of oregano, and ancho chile powder)
optional: ¼ pound feta cheese
First, get the wheatberries cooking. Measure 1 cup out, then pour it into a very fine strainer and rinse it under cold water. If you have an itty-bitty strainer (like me!) you’ll likely need to rinse it in batches.
Tiny strainer is tiny!
Dump the rinsed wheatberries into whatever you’ll cook them in. I like to use a rice cooker whenever I’m making any sort of grain, as it’s absolutely foolproof! Add 3 ½ cups of water (or, if you substitute quinoa, follow the package directions) and a half teaspoon of salt. I also like to add a dash of garlic powder here. Pop the lid on and plug it in. Then preheat the oven to 375°.
I bought this rice cooker eight years ago for less than $15, and it's still going strong!
Now for the veggies! Wash everything well and prepare to chop. My goal here is always to chop it small enough that I’ll get multiple types of veggies in a single bite. I chop carrots, parsnips, and onions in about ¼” dice, or about half the size of the eggplants and squash, since root veggies take longer to cook than squash/eggplant and I want onion EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME. I chop the eggplant, yellow squash, and zucchini in roughly ½” pieces. All the chopping took me about 20 minutes, even with frequent photography stops.
Bonus of organic carrots: no peeling! Downside of parsnips: peeling.
My eggplant-cubing method
At this point, your wheatberries are merrily bubbling away and you are surrounded by a pleasing mountain of chopped deliciousness. Stick the vegetables into a dish, a cast-iron or other oven-safe skillet, or spread them out on a baking sheet (or some combination of these!). Your goal here is to have at most two layers of veggies in the dish. If you pile too many veggies in one pan, they’ll steam, rather than roast, and you won’t get that lovely roasted texture and flavor. Unless you have a massive roasting pan, you may need more than one dish to spread them out.
I’m using this charming strawberry-print casserole, and sticking my eggplant overflow into my cast-iron skillet, because eggplants hog all the olive oil and I’m lazy about doing dishes. Well-seasoned cast iron is a cinch to clean!
Now, retrieve your olive oil, salt/pepper, and Spice Armada.
If I'm ever on Jeopardy, I hope there's a clue about the Spanish Armada's attack on England in 1588. It's one fact I'll never forget! Also, spices = deliciousness!
Drizzle some olive oil over the veggies and season liberally. I tend to use a TON of paprika (not pictured because it was already sitting next to the casserole dish), a generous amount of cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and coriander, and a dash of celery salt and oregano. Mix with your hand to make sure all the veggies get some love, then stick the veggies in the oven for approximately 25 minutes.
All dressed up with no place to go… EXCEPT MY BELLY.
The veggies will be done when they're fork-tender and have that nice roasted-veggie, slightly-dried-looking exterior.
These veggies are ready and waiting for the wheatberries.
If the veggies are done before the wheat berries, don't worry! Just leave the veg in the oven on 200 degrees F until the wheatberries are al dente. When the wheatberries have cooked through to your desired tenderness, dump them right into the casserole and mix together. Or, if you don't mind doing dishes and have nice serving things (or people to impress!), dump the veggies and the wheatberries into a serving bowl and add feta if desired.
You can see here that I went for the path of less mess, myself.
Time to eat! Serve yourself a bowl and enjoy :).
I wasn't kidding when I said Jeff was a champion eater, and I'm no slouch myself. This made a nice afternoon snack for us the next day, though!