This summer, when I was blogging from Jerusalem, I wrote about the way people love to take their life outdoors here in Israel. Most summer evenings in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park, parents, grandparents, babies and teenagers, set up on blankets and plastic chairs, cooked, ate and played together until after dark. Here in Tel Aviv, the beach near our apartment resembles a carnival with families eating, flying kites, smoking hookahs and taking pony rides until sunset. The festive atmosphere is quite contagious, and for a couple hours amidst the cooking smells, the sight of the ocean at dusk, and Auralee and Jeff trying (mostly in vain) to get our kite off the ground, I was able to forget that we are in the midst of a chaotic and overwhelming time.
Rice, Lentil and Wheat Berry Salad, from foodnetwork.com
In an effort to come up with new, interesting and healthy dinner options in my kitchen-of-limited-capabilities, I am turning my attention to the grain family. There are a whole lot of salads to be made in this world that involve a variety of rice, beans, little pastas, vegetables, oils, vinegars and so forth. This one could not be simpler, though it does require a little planning ahead because of the wheat berries, which need to be soaked overnight (or cooked and soaked and cooked again), but those toothsome little tasties are well worth it.
1/3 cup wheat berries
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed in a strainer
3/4 cup basmati or jasmine rice, rinsed in a strainer
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, put through a press or minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Generous seasoning freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil (mine is from the shuk here is Tel Aviv and is incredible)
1 carrot, minced (I used 2 bell peppers instead)
1 red bell pepper, very finely diced
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
Soak the wheat berries overnight, or, as an alternative, place them in a saucepan half filled with water and boil them for 2 minutes, then remove them from the heat and let sit 1 hour. In either case, drain them, then refill the saucepan halfway with water and cook the wheat berries, partially covered, for 1 hour. When done, the wheat berries will be tender but slightly crunchy. Drain them thoroughly and let them cool. (Note: While the cooking method is a little more convenient — especially if you decide to make the salad and want it the same day — soaking the berried overnight yields a chewier more interesting texture.)
Bring 2 cups of water, the canola oil, and salt to a boil in a mediumsize saucepan. Stir in the lentils and rice and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and cook for 17 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Do not stir the mixture at all while it is cooking. Carefully spoon the mixture into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile combine the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tightfitting lid and shake vigorously. Set aside.
When the rice mixture is completely cooled, use a large spoon to break up any clumps that have formed. Carefully stir in the wheat berries, carrot, red pepper, and parsley. Pour the dressing on the salad and toss. Let marinate at least 20 minutes before serving. (Note The rice greedily soaks up the dressing, so if you want to make this salad 2 to 24 hours in advance, pour on only half the dressing at first, then add the remainder about 20 minutes before serving.)