The wheat berries will take more salt that you might think, so salt the water generously that you boil them in. If you taste it, it should approximate sea water. And any assortment of firm-fleshed root vegetables will do (or butternut squash), but they should be all about the same size when diced.
This salad is open to lots of variations and interpretations. I gave a few at the end of the recipe, but it’d also be good served warm with roasted meat, chicken, or vegetables and any pan juices scraped over the top.
1 1/2 cup (300g) wheat berries or farro
one bay leaf
2 pounds (1kg) assorted root vegetables; carrots, rutabagas, butternut squash, celery root, parsnips, and salsify, peeled and cut into thumbnail-sized cubes
1 large red onion peeled and diced
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (80ml) olive oil
10 or so branches of fresh thyme
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup (60g) dried cranberries or cherries, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).
1. Bring about 2 quarts (2l) of well-salted water to a boil, then add the wheat berries and bay leaf. Cook until tender, but still chewy. Depending on the variety, they’ll take between 40-60 minutes to cook.
2. While the wheat berries are cooking, toss the diced vegetables on a baking sheet with the onion and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and thyme, seasoning with salt and pepper.
3. Roast the vegetables in the bottom third of the oven, stirring once midway during baking, for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and browned on the outside.
4. Once the wheat berries are cooked, drain them well, plucking out the bay leaf. Transfer the wheat berries to a bowl and mix in 1/3 cup (80 ml) of olive oil and the dried fruits, stirring well. Taste, seasoning with more salt if necessary
5. Stir in the root vegetables (I don’t mind the thyme branches in there, but you can remove them if you want) and do a final check for seasoning and add more salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and additional olive oil, if desired. You might want a splash of acid, like some vinegar in there, or check some of the additions below.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Storage: Can be made up to three days in advance, and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before serving.
Here are some possible additions to add to the finished salad
Toasted and coarsely chopped pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts
Diced dried apricots in place of the cranberries or cherries
Cubes of feta or bleu cheese strewn over the top
A big squeeze of fresh lemon or tangerine juice, or some zest
Sautéed mushrooms tossed in with the root vegetables
Wilted greens, cooked with garlic, coarsely chopped
A generous handful of spicy arugula or flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped