Rice & Wheat Berry Salad can be made ahead for your first spring picnic. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

After many months apart, I’m planning a little picnic at the shore with my two teenage granddaughters. I came up with a menu that includes the market rotisserie chicken they favor and a grain salad studded with vegetables. For dessert, I’m making something they’ve never eaten before: a pineapple upside-down cake.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

I first learned of wheat berries from my grandmother, who used them to make the most delicious, hearty bread. You can find them in the health food section or at a natural foods store. This satisfying Rice & Wheat Berry Salad can be eaten with the simple sesame oil dressing or yummy peanut sauce can be used. If you opt for the latter, make extra to slather over cold noodles or to serve with spring rolls or crudité. Just adjust the consistency and flavors to your liking. For example, feel free to add more garlic, honey or pepper flakes to make it your own.

About every three years or so, I must have a pineapple-upside down cake. It has to be a nostalgia thing, perhaps because I have a memory of a spring picnic from long ago when my grandmother showed up with the most lovely pineapple upside-down cake I’d ever tasted. I still remember her removing the cake from a picnic basket and bringing forth a Mason jar of thick cream to dribble over the top.

Ideally, bake your cake in a well-seasoned, greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet, but if you don’t have one, make the caramel in a small saucepan, then proceed with a buttered 9-inch cake pan.

This old-fashioned dessert (sans maraschino cherries) is delicious warm, of course, but it can be made a day ahead and chilled. Either way, prepare some healthy picnic choices, engage in a bit of nostalgia and, above all else, get outside.

Rice & Wheat Berry Salad

1/3 cup wheat berries, rinsed and soaked for at least 1 hour
1 cup uncooked brown rice, rinsed
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts or unsalted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped

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Drain the wheat berries and rice. In a medium saucepan combine the two grains with the water, cover and bring to a boil. Add salt and reduce heat to simmer for 25 minutes or until grains are tender and water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool in a medium bowl.

Stir in raisins, nuts, carrots, scallions and herbs. Yield: 4 servings

Dressing

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Pour over rice mixture and toss.

Peanut Sauce

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3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1-2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2-4 tablespoons water or coconut milk for desired consistency

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together ingredients until well-blended. If peanut butter is particularly thick, you may need to use the full 4 tablespoons of liquid or more to thin out the mixture.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Topping

1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, sliced into 3/8-inch thick circles and cored
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup brown sugar

Melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron or oven-proof skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, for four minutes. Remove from heat. Arrange pineapple rings closely on top of sugar mixture.

Batter

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 tablespoon dark rum or 1 extra tablespoon pineapple juice
2 tablespoons dark rum for sprinkling over cake, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended.

Spread batter evenly over pineapple and topping. Bake on middle oven rack until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet for five minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet. Sprinkle rum over cake if using and cool on plate on a rack. Yield: 6-8 servings

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