Caprese wheat berries

For a minute there, I was convinced that winter was behind us and spring was here. And the way my brain works, it may as well be summer. At the first signs of consistently warmer weather, I'm in my closet tearing out everything with sleeves and subbing in my favorite dresses and shorts and tank tops. It's one of my favorite tasks, too, because I've always forgotten about some of my most beloved pieces after not seeing them for six months. 

I'm the same way with food and wine. Gone are the casserole and soup and red wine cravings; bring on the rosé and champagne and sauvignon blanc and (un-oaked) chardonnay (and apparently no food). But really, all the spring and summer foods, too. Grilled chicken and steak, fish, seasonal produce, and loaded but still light salads. And pizza, which is a craving that knows no season. And cheese. 

Guess what?—it's 25 degrees today, and I'm ignoring it with this heartier take on a summer Caprese salad. It's wheat berries, a chewy grain similar to farro (which you could use instead), with sweet tomatoes, basil, arugula, and mozzarella. Oh and Parmesan. All tossed in balsamic, lemon, and oil, and served room temperature or heated up and served hot with gooey stringy cheese. Because mozzarella just comes alive when it's melted.

This is a great make-ahead lunch, but would also be a perfect side for a cookout or barbecue. I'm planning on riffs of it all spring and summer long.

Caprese wheat berry salad - The Pastiche

Caprese wheat berries

Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main portion
¾ cup uncooked wheat berries
2½ cups water
½ cup roughly chopped sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
3 T olive oil, divided
Pinch salt
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup packed basil leaves, chiffonade
Large handful of baby arugula
½ T balsamic vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
¼ tsp or so of salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
¾ cup diced mozzarella
¼ cup or so freshly grated Parmesan

In a medium saucepan, cover wheat berries with water, add in onion, garlic, 1 T olive oil, and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Cover and lower temperature to a simmer for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through but with a nice chew. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining in a small bowl or mason jar balsamic vinegar, 2 T olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk or shake vigorously until incorporated. Now add to the bowl of wheat berries the tomatoes, basil, and arugula. Pour the dressing over the top and toss well to combine. Fold in mozzarella and Parmesan, and top with a little extra Parmesan and basil. Store in the fridge, but serve at room temperature or hot.