This hearty strawberry cucumber salad with wheat berries is somewhat of a departure for me. It includes Napa cabbage. Cabbage is not something that usually makes it into my grocery cart.
My strawberry cucumber salad was inspired by this delicious looking Strawberry Tabbouleh by Min over at Adventures of MJ and Hungryman, and particularly by the comment by Jill about using strawberries in the place of tomatoes.
The truth is, I don’t like tomatoes. Shocking, I know. People are always surprised when I say I don’t like raw tomatoes. I don’t. At all. Can’t swallow them. I’ve tried. And tried. And tried. No dice.
I had already bookmarked the tabbouleh recipe, because I really want to make it. I can tell that it will taste fabulous. Then I saw Jill’s comment. A light bulb went off in my head. In any salad that normally uses raw tomatoes, I could just substitute strawberries. Wow. What a brilliant concept.
My first thought was of a Greek salad. I loved the idea of pairing strawberries and cucumber. I often do that with a spinach salad, and then add a bit of goat cheese. That’s when my thoughts veered towards this salad. I knew I wanted to use cucumbers, strawberries, pecans and feta. Adding wheat berries seemed perfect to make the salad more of a meal. If wheat berries are new to you, find our more with this earlier wheat berry salad recipe.
I knew my salad concept was missing something: another vegetable or herb. Off to the grocery store I went. That’s how the Napa cabbage made it in. As soon as I saw it, I knew that’s what my salad needed. This is odd, as I don’t think I have ever knowingly eaten Napa cabbage.
My instincts were right. The cabbage was a great addition. Napa cabbage has a milder flavour than regular cabbage. I did cut out small triangles of the white centre of the stem, to remove the most bitter part of the leaves. The Napa cabbage holds up well and gives the salad some structure and crunch.
A great salad deserves equally great vinaigrette. The presence of the strawberries demanded vinaigrette with a bit of sweetness to it. Not too much, and it should be balanced with some light savouriness. I think you will find this orange maple vinaigrette is a perfect match.
I’m totally in love with this salad. I’ve made it several times already. This strawberry cucumber salad with wheat berries is a bit like the intersection between winter and spring. The cabbage, wheat berries and pecans bring the heartiness and comfort of winter. So does the orange in the vinaigrette. The cucumber and strawberries, as well as the maple syrup and fresh dill that are in the vinaigrette evoke spring. They are fresh, light flavours, full of life. Spring is the season of re-birth and this salad is the return to mild, refreshing flavours, after a long, dark, cold winter.
Recipe: Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Wheat Berries
Makes 2 meal size portions or 4 side servings
- 1 cup chopped Napa cabbage (chopped into long strips)
- ¾ cup cooked wheat berries (*see note for cooking instructions)
- 3” (7.5 cm) long piece English cucumber, coarsely diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup coarsely diced strawberries
- ½ cup (70 g) crumbled feta
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- Orange maple vinaigrette (recipe below)
Put cabbage in large bowl. Add wheat berries, cucumbers and strawberries. Top with feta and pecans. Add vinaigrette to taste. Serve and enjoy.
* Note: To cook wheat berries, measure ½ cup dry wheat berries. Rinse them. Add 1½ cup (375 mL) water and the wheat berries to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the wheat berries are tender, which could be up to 90 minutes, depending on type of wheat berries. Start checking for doneness after 40 minutes. I cooked mine for 70 minutes. When done, drain excess water from wheat berries.
½ cup dry wheat berries will yield 1 ½ cup cooked wheat berries.
Recipe: Orange Maple Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup vinaigrette
- 2 green onions (scallions) finely chopped (white and light green parts only)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Add first five ingredients to medium mixing bowl. Whisk ingredients while pouring in olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe makes about 1 cup vinaigrette, which is much more than you will need for the salad. The fresh flavour of the orange maple vinaigrette pair well with other light salads. Pour extra vinaigrette into a jar with lid and store in fridge for up three weeks.
The olive oil will solidify in the fridge. Take the vinaigrette out of fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.