Mark Bittman: Wheat Berry Salad with Zucchini and Mozzarella

By Freya Bellin

If you’re in search of a great picnic dish, look no further. This recipe is summery and herby, while still hearty enough to fill you up. Wheat berries are an unusual grain: dense, chewy, and very nutty. That texture is a great vehicle for pillowy broiled zucchini and rich, creamy pine nuts. Mozzarella adds a nice saltiness (I recommend fresh) and pairs surprisingly well with dill. Just keep in mind that wheat berries can take almost 2 hours to cook, so plan ahead or substitute in another grain in a pinch. This salad tastes great at room temperature—partly what makes it an excellent picnic candidate—but the flavors get a little muddled over time. Just add some fresh dill and cheese to brighten up the dish before serving. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Wheat Berry Salad with Zucchini and Mozzarella

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes with cooked grains

Assuming you have some kind of cooked grains in the fridge (always a good idea), this salad comes together quickly. Wheat berries are my first choice because of their unsurpassed chewiness, but even small grains like rice, cracked wheat, quinoa, and whole wheat couscous (or even cut pasta) work just fine. Roasted bell peppers are a tasty and colorful addition, especially ones that you make yourself. And if you’ve got roasted garlic handy, it’s a beautiful change from the raw garlic here.

1⁄4 cup pine nuts

3 or 4 medium zucchini (about 1 1⁄2 pounds), halved lengthwise

1⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and black pepper

2 cups cooked wheat berries

1 teaspoon minced garlic, or to taste

1⁄2 cup fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried

3 tablespoons sherry or white wine vinegar

1 cup cubed mozzarella, optional

1. Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove from the pan.

2. Turn on the broiler; the heat should be medium-high and the rack about 4 inches from the fire. Brush the zucchini with the 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and broil, turning as needed, until lightly charred on both sides and beginning to soften, 5 minutes or more. When they’re cool enough to handle, cut the zucchini into chunks or slices.

3. Toss together the zucchini, wheat berries, garlic, and about half of the dill in a large salad bowl. Add the vinegar and 1⁄4 cup oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. (The salad can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated for up to a day.) To serve, toss the mozzarella into the salad, along with the remaining dill.

White Bean Salad with Zucchini and Mozzarella. Substitute cooked white beans for the wheat berries.

From the award-winning champion of conscious eating and author of the bestselling Food Matters comes The Food Matters Cookbook, offering the most comprehensive and straightforward ideas yet for cooking easy, delicious foods that are as good for you as they are for the planet. The Food Matters Cookbook is the essential encyclopedia and guidebook to responsible eating, with more than 500 recipes that capture Bittman's typically relaxed approach to everything in the kitchen.