Warm Wheat Berries with Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Oregano

A judicious amount of salt in the cooking water ensures well-seasoned wheat berries that are tender with a good bite.

Warm Wheat Berries with Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Oregano
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS In Greek culture, wheat represents new life and a bountiful harvest, so we decided to seize on that idea and create a wheat berry salad that would capitalize on fresh, abundant summer vegetables. We cooked the wheat berries using the pasta method to ensure even cooking, but our standard ratio of salt to water (1 tablespoon to 4 quarts) prevented the grains from properly absorbing the water; they stayed hard and crunchy no matter how long we cooked them. Reducing the amount of salt was a simple fix and the grains still turned out nicely seasoned. Sautéing zucchini, red pepper, and red onion gave them great flavor; browning the vegetables in batches was essential to achieving the deep sear we were after. We allowed the warm wheat berries to soak in our bold-flavored vinaigrette while the vegetables were cooking. Do not add more than 1½ teaspoons of salt when cooking the wheat berries; adding more will prevent the grains from softening. If using quick-cooking or presteamed wheat berries (read the ingredient list on the package to determine this), you will need to decrease the wheat berry cooking time in step 1.

1½ cups wheat berries
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1½ teaspoons dried
1 zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add wheat berries and 1½ teaspoons salt, return to boil, and cook until tender but still chewy, 60 to 70 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon zest, and oregano together in large bowl. Drain wheat berries, add to bowl with dressing, and toss gently to coat.
3. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add zucchini and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown and beginning to char in spots, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to bowl with wheat berries.
4. Return now-empty skillet to medium-high heat and add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, onion, bell pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is charred at edges and pepper skin is charred and blistered, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wheat berry–zucchini mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Grating Zest

Swipe rinsed and dried fruit along microplane grater in one direction—not back and forth—to remove zest and avoid bitter white pith.