If vegetables can be considered a religion, then my families religion is butternut squash. It’s one of the most abundant items cultivated on our small farm and it was the vegetable that my Grandfather was the most proud to grow. We used to jokingly call his Cadillac the “butternut mobile” because he would drive around the farm in that car, collecting butternut squash and giving visitors tours of the butternut fields.
So needless to say, I’m pretty happy that it’s butternut squash season again. I love to prepare it every which way possible. And I could eat it all day, everyday. Morning, noon and night! But my new favorite obsession is this Wheat Berry Salad with Whiskey-Soaked Cranberries, Kale and Roasted Butternut Squash.
I’m am seriously crushing on this salad. It has so many complex flavors and textures. It makes me swoon. The wheat berries (not actually a berry, but a whole grain) are chewy and nutty and super duper filling. The roasted butternut squash is sweet and soft. The kale adds brightness and a little crunch. Oh and the whiskey-soaked cranberries. Hello! Amazing! The dried cranberries plump up with all the flavors of the whiskey, giving you get a little burst of boozy-ness when you bite into them. It makes weekday lunches at the office that much more bearable (hint: leftovers are amazing, so take ’em with you to work!).
Oh and of course I couldn’t just toss the soaking liquid down the drain. That would be a waste of perfectly good whiskey! I used it to create a simple dressing for this salad, so all those wonderful flavors subtly permeate the whole dish.
Full disclosure time. Wheat berries do take some time to cook (up to 60 minutes sometimes). But you can roast the squash, make the dressing and prep the kale all while the wheat berries are cooking, to ensure this dish comes together quickly once the wheat berries are actually done.
I enjoyed this salad on the first day while it was still slightly warm. But I actually think it got a bit better with age. So yeah for leftovers!
Wheat Berry Salad with Whiskey-Soaked Cranberries, Kale and Roasted Butternut Squash
- For the Salad
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup whiskey
- 2 cups wheat berries
- 6 cups water
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1.5 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cups kale, thinly sliced
- For the Dressing
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons reserved soaking liquid
- 2 tsp. shallot, finely diced
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- In a small bowl or glass, combine the dried cranberries and the whiskey. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the cranberries soak in the whiskey at room temperature for at least 3 hours or up to overnight (I did mine overnight). Strain the cranberries through a fine mesh strainer, collecting and reserving the soaking liquid (you will use this for the dressing). Set aside.
- Cook the wheat berries. In a large pot combine the wheat berries, water and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, with the lid on, for 45-60 minutes. The wheat berries are done when they have plumped slightly and some have started to split open. They should be chewy and al-dente. Drain the wheat berries and then transfer them to a large bowl. Cover to keep warm.
- While the wheat berries are cooking, roast the butternut squash. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl toss the cubed squash with the olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
- Make your dressing. Whisk all of the ingredients together until well combined. Pour the dressing over the still warm wheat berries, tossing to combine. Add the cranberries, butternut squash and sliced kale. Toss gently to combine.
- You can serve this salad while it’s still warm. Or refrigerate it for a few hours and serve it chilled. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
1. Dried cherries would be great in place of the dried cranberries.
2. Brandy also makes for a delicious soaking liquid!
3. You can find wheat berries in the bulk section of most natural grocery stores. If you can’t find wheat berries, farro would make a great alternative.