In the 1970s and 80s, marketing wizards came up with the term “wheat” when describing certain types of bread with some modicum of wheat (enriched flour, typically) . The rest of the fillers were white flour, sugar, hydrogenated oils, and voila! You’ve got bread (not to be confused with the Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith blockbuster You’ve Got Mail). Decades later, the FDA got smart(er) and forced food manufacturers to decipher between “whole wheat” versus “wheat” for their nonperishable, applicable items.
What really boggles my mind is that the concept of “whole grains” has been around for literally thousands of years! Ancient Egyptians have hieroglyphics depicting farmers collecting wheat. These wheat husks have hundreds, thousands of little kernels, in which we call “berries” in English.
Pictured: Dried whole wheat berries. In Arabic, these berries are called baleela. Packed with protein and fiber these powerful grains were the building blocks of the ancient Egyptian diet
Today, you can find whole wheat berries sold in bulk at expensive health food stores, or you can drop into your local European / Middle Eastern grocery store for a bag for less than $3.00 (that’s what I do).
Once cooked, the versatile grain are used in many ways: as a substitute for rice, thrown in for extra protein and fiber in soups, or as a breakfast food. Served warm in milk and sugar, modern-day Egyptians use baleela as a breakfast food, similar to hot oatmeal in the morning. Personally, my favorite way to cook whole wheat berries as a base for a savory salad. It makes for a great side salad for BBQs!
Here’s the steps to my simple, healthy, nutritious Whole Wheat Berry Salad
- Soak the dried whole wheat berries in water for several hours, minimum. The whole wheat should be at least two inches covered with water.
- Toss the water (it may be hazy colored from the starch) and Rinse the whole wheat.
- Place in a pot of salted water and bring to a slow boil.
- Leave to cook under a slow boil for at least 30 minutes.
- To test if cooked, try one kernel. It should be soft and chewy, similar to over-cooked rice.
- Once cooked, remove from heat and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process.
The cooked grain will look rounder, moist, and fluffy.
This will be your “base” to the savory salad. Now, you can add whatever you like to your salad. For me, I have Mediterranean taste buds. So I add the following to my Baleela or Whole Wheat Berry Salad.
Fun additions to your salad
- Chopped vine-ripened tomatoes
- Sliced, pitted black olives
- Chopped cilantro or Italian parsley
- Thinly-sliced endives
- Crumbled Feta cheese
- Olive oil (to taste)
- Freshly squeezed lemon
- Salt (to taste)
Add the above to the salad, mix well with lemon, olive oil and salt. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Enjoy!
Packs great for work at the office AND as a side for outside barbecues.
So fellow goddesses: stub your noses (and wallets) to those food manufacturers who think they can fool you by having you eat “wheat” products. Go for the real deal! Go to the source: Whole Wheat Berries. You will literally taste the difference, feel more full, and know you are treating your body well.
Discover your Inner Aphrodite . . .