Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Story of Michael Ruhlman + His Wheatberry Salad

When I was in the very early stages of writing my book, I dreamed of having a renowned expert in the culinary world (a food god, if you will) write my foreword. At the very top of my wish list (ok, the only person on my list) was Michael Ruhlman.

Photo credit: Donna Turner Ruhlman

Now, unless you've been living in a cave for the past few years, you know darn well that not only is Michael highly respected nationally (and probably globally, too) as a top-notch food writer, cook, and all-around charismatic guy, but even more importantly, he's also a native Clevelander. Born and bred. (And I have no problem with him being an eastsider. Just saying.)

He fit all my criteria...and then some.

So I wrote to him. And I boldly, blatantly, and probably even shamelessly just came out and asked him if he would do me the honor. (After all, what did I have to lose, right? Am I right? Of course I'm right.) To my utter and complete amazement, he said yes. I was on top of the world!

Fast-forward one year later when my manuscript -- with Michael's copy -- was due. As it turned out, Michael was suddenly and unexpectedly super busy at that particular time and couldn't make any promises that he'd be able to deliver what he had promised a year earlier. I had only three more days left before I had to turn everything in, with or without Michael's foreword. I'd either have one of the best forewords in the cookbook world...or nothing at all. Yikes!

To say I sweated it out during those three days is an understatement. A real understatement.

But lo and behold, in the eleventh hour, Michael pulled through (being the consummate professional that he is) and sent me his copy just in the nick of time. I love him to this day for it.

Which brings me to why I am such a huge fan of his. He's passionate about the topics of food and cooking. (And I mean good food and good cooking.) He's dedicated to educating his readers and followers through both his books and his fascinating adventures in the kitchen. And he's quite an interesting person.

So, being the loyal fan that I am of him and the lover that I am of wheatberries (which has absolutely nothing to do with their healthy benefits for fiber and protein and everything to do with an irresistibly sweet version called Serbian koljivo -- read about it here), when I read his latest blog post on a wheatberry salad he made, I just knew I had to give it a try.

I made it for my husband and two daughters a couple weeks ago. They loved it.

Then I made it for my three little grandchildren last week while visiting them in Charlotte, NC. And they loved it.

Next, I'll be making it for my friends who are attending a summer picnic with us next week. I'm sure they're gonna love it, too.

Which is why this recipe is now officially a keeper in my repertoire.

It's healthy. It's colorful. It's filling. It's vegan. It's great in all weathers, including summer. And it's downright delicious (thanks, in large part, to the special vinaigrette).

Why not give it a try yourself? I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Adapted from Michael Ruhlman
Serves 6-8

For the salad
  • 1 cup wheat berries
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into small dice
  • 2 ears corn (or 1 cup corn kernels)
  • 1 cup shelled edamame (or lima bean or peas), cooked
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the vinaigrette
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 leaves romaine lettuce or head lettuce (optional)
  1. In medium saucepan over high heat, combine the wheat berries and water, and add half the diced onion and the bay leaf. When the water reaches a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low. After 30 minutes, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir to dissolve, and taste the cooking water. If it needs more seasoning, add another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and continue cooking until tender, another 30 minutes or so. Uncover and simmer until almost all of the water has cooked off. Set this aside and keep at room temperature or chill.
  2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat a film of olive oil, then saute the remaining diced onion. When the onion is tender, add the red pepper and sauté until the pepper is tender. Remove from the heat. While the onions and peppers are cooking, boil the corn ears for a few minutes. Hold them under cold water till they’re comfortable to handle, then slice the kernels off the cob into a large salad bowl. Add the cooked edamame, the onions and peppers, and the wheat berries.
  3. To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, shallot, garlic, and a three-finger pinch of salt and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the cayenne, and whisk in the oil. Taste. If it’s too sharp, add more oil.
  4. Toss the vegetables and wheat berries with the dressing, holding some back. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Taste and evaluate. Add more dressing or additional lemon juice to taste.
  5. Serve in lettuce leaves if you wish.


Unknown said...

You give me yet another reason to try wheatberries! What am I waiting for? Don't you love it when you discover a fantastic recipe that you love making again and again and sharing it with all your family and friends? I feel that way with all the recipes I've tried from your book!

Mr. Ruhlman rocks, and I love the forward he wrote for you.

Maria Isabella said...

He did do a great job, didn't he?

And thanks for all your continuous positive feedback, Charlene. So glad you're enjoying the recipes. You're the best!