When I first married my husband I knew there’d be a learning curve…for both of us! I think many young people are naive by thinking marrying the love of their life doesn’t come with hurdles! Some of them are large, some are small, but all pose their own challenges and opportunities to learn about one another – and the family you’ve married into! One challenge for me was figuring out how to blend the holiday traditions my husband grew up with, and the ones I was accustomed to, into a new set of traditions for our little growing family. While we both grew up with similar values and faiths, there were definite differences we had to iron out. And as crazy as it sounds, sometimes it was something as silly as an apple salad that bridged the gap!
The first Thanksgiving we were together – in fact it was the weekend he proposed to me – we went to his parents’ farm for the family gathering. Of course there were all the traditional dishes – turkey, potatoes, green beans, rolls, etc. And even though they weren’t exactly like I’d have prepared it – all were delicious and it was fun to try new versions of classic holiday fare. But it got a little awkward and tense when I volunteered to help, and my husband’s mom asked me to make the apple salad. Ummmm…this was new to me! Apparently they had this particular apple salad at every single holiday gathering, and I’d never made one before. Thankfully his mom and sister-in-law taught me how to make it, and while it was good, I’m afraid it never made it into regular rotation at any of our subsequent holiday dinners – at least not in it’s original form! I happily serve an apple salad at our holiday gatherings these days, but it’s not the recipe I was taught that particular Thanksgiving. This Apple Wheat Berry Salad is a fresh take on the salad I made in that farm kitchen some 24 years ago! I wonder if Mr.CEBH’S mom and dad would approve!!!
I think one of the reasons we both like this salad so much is because it speaks to traditions – new and old! By eliminating the jarred salad dressing, all of the sugar, and a few other ingredients, but keeping the apples, celery, and pecans – and then throwing in a myriad of other new ingredients I feel like I’ve successfully bridged the family tradition and generation gaps with this salad! It’s definitely not my mother-in-law’s apple salad! 😉
Start by cooking the wheat berries. Put the uncooked wheat berries in a large sauce pan or small stock pot with about 4-5 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the berries are tender – about 40-45 minutes. Drain excess water and set the cooked wheat berries in the fridge to cool. I used the time while the wheat berries were cooking to make homemade mayonnaise – click the link for the recipe – but feel free to use store bought if you prefer. Just be sure to use mayo and not salad dressing. Next up – toast the pecans by placing them in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 5-7 minutes until aromatic and lightly browned. But watch them closely…they can burn in an instant if left unattended. Once the pecans are done, set them aside to cool, and chop the celery, mince the shallot, and dice the apples. Assemble the salad by combining the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt & pepper, and shallots in a large mixing bowl to make the dressing. Toss in the cooled wheat berries, diced apples, chopped celery, and toasted pecans. Stir to coat, transfer to a serving dish, and sit back and wait for the compliments to roll in!
Seriously – I love this salad so much that I eat the leftovers for breakfast. And lunch. And an afternoon snack. And whenever the heck I think about it sitting in the refrigerator just waiting for me to sneak a little fork full! Do you have recipes that you’ve learned from an in-law or friend and then adapted to make a new version? Share them with me in the comments – I’d love to hear your “salad story”!!!
- 3 or 4 large apples - any variety that you'd eat out of hand - diced
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked wheat berries
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 1 cup pecans, toasted
- 1 cup mayonnaise ~ link to homemade in post
- 3 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Place wheat berries in a medium stockpot and cover with 4-5 cups water.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 40-45 minutes or until wheat berries are tender.
- Drain excess water and place cooked wheat berries in the refrigerator to cool.
- Meanwhile, toast pecans by placing them in a dry non-stick skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently and watching closely so they don't burn.
- Remove pecans from heat when aromatic and lightly browned, then set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl combine mayo, vinegar, minced shallot, honey, and salt & pepper. Whisk to combine.
- Stir in cooled wheat berries, apples, celery, and pecans until well combined.
- Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.
- This salad also makes a fantastic breakfast for on-the-run mornings!