Wheatberry, Avocado and Broccoli Pesto Salad

I took an hour this morning to have the “rainy Sunday” I missed out on yesterday. New magazines, coffee and reading cookbooks start-to-finish are my favorite things. Plus a new candle from Mercantile Home – my absolute favorite candles on the earth, ever, and they will be featured in my next “Little Spoon” guest blog for LV Style magazine’s website (new one out later this week).

All that reading makes a girl hungry. Heidi Swason’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook inspired this dish. It’s a spin on her Orzo Salad (p.95) based on the ingredients I had on hand. (She obviously uses orzo pasta, which I replaced with wheatberries, and the pesto I made uses sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast instead of pine nuts and parmesan.)


  • 1 and 1/2 cups dried wheatberries
  • 3 and 1/2 cups water, some salt added
  • 5 cups raw broccoli (about 3 medium sized bunches) cut into bite-sized florets and stems
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2/3 cups raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon, plus zest if desired
  • 1 small avocado, diced
  • dried red pepper flakes for garnish

Cook the wheatberries in the water. This takes about 30-45 minutes. Wheatberries are dense and when fully cooked still have a sort of “al dente” chewiness. I love the texture. Once cooked, strain and set aside.

Ingredients for broccoli pesto salad.

Add the broccoli to a large pot of boiling water, and boil for 1-2 minutes, until just blanched and bright green but still crisp. DON’T OVERCOOK. Stay near the stove. Strain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.


Add 2 cups of the broccoli to a food processor, along with garlic, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, oil, lemon juice and zest.  Process until a pesto-like consistency. (It will be a little creamier than a typical pesto.)

Broccoli pesto (vegan).

In a large bowl, add wheatberries, broccoli pesto, remaining 3 cups of broccoli, and avocado. Stir everything together. It will get really creamy thanks to the pesto and avocado. It will seem thick, but you won’t need to add any more oil (unless you want to), so just keep mixing. Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with some dried red pepper flakes for a pop of color.

Wheatberry, avocado and broccoli pesto salad.

*I have been using sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts in a lot of recipes lately. I buy a lot of dried fruit/veggies, beans and raw nuts from a market that sells them in pre-packaged bulk. The sunflower seeds are SIX TIMES LESS MONEY than pine nuts. 

They aren’t as “creamy” as pine nuts, and for some fancy recipes or when you have a party, you may want to use pine nuts. But for every day cooking and sticking to a grocery budget, they have yet to do me wrong.

PARSLEY WALNUT PESTO: Put it on Everything

Parsley was once the curly green garnish I left on my plate when my Mom, Gram and I would eat lunch at the old Boscov’s in Wilkes-Barre. I would gleefully eat the whole lemon slices from everyone’s iced teas, but every time I’d take a nibble of the parsley (and I did try, each time), I couldn’t understand WHY it existed except to work up my then-budding OCD by being the only remaining thing on a clean plate.

These days, I am a total parsley convert. I always have it, and it’s notoriously the only plant I’ve been able to grow and keep alive for an entire season. I’m talking about the flat leaf, or Italian parsley – the curly kind is still quite bitter and leaves something to be desired.

A natural breath freshener thanks to some aromatic oils in the leaves, parsley is a health food, touting a good amount of Vitamin C among other notable benefits.

This past Saturday as I was squished up in bed flipping through the new Whole Living magazine (one of my all-time favorite publications), I found this simple recipe. The ingredients are minimal, and like me, you may have everything on hand already.

*The original recipe calls for orange sweet potatoes; I had white sweet potatoes on hand, but orange would be great and look pretty, too!



  • 3-4 sweet potatoes, cut into “fries”
  • 7 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts (toast them if you’d like)
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the sweet potatoes in a bowl (you may need to do this in two batches) and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil, just enough to lightly coat, and season with salt and pepper. Put them on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Turn once turing cook time. They will be tender and just starting to brown.

Roasted white sweet potatoes.

While the potatoes are in the oven, make the pesto. Blend the remaining ingredients in a food processor. You will need to stop and scrape down the sides of the processor once or twice to make sure everything is mixed through. Pesto will have somewhat of a chunky paste consistency.

Parsley walnut pesto.

Allow the potatoes to cool for a few minutes. Plate the potatoes, then use a spoon or brush to spread the pesto over them. The hot potatoes will melt the pesto a little. Mmmm.

White sweet potatoes and Parsley Walnut Pesto.

White sweet potatoes with Parsley Walnut Pesto.

You will likely have at least 1/2 cup of the pesto left over. Use it as a spread on sandwiches (it would be delicious mixed into some Vegenaise), tossed with pasta, or spread over more roasted veggies.  Enjoy!