Grains are nutritious, substantial and just plain delicious when paired with late summer’s produce.
Posted in , Aug 30, 2018
I am a big fan of salad for supper, especially in the summertime when produce is plentiful and hot weather makes a compelling case against turning on the stove and oven.
By late summer, lettuce-based salads start to take a backseat and I begin to crave more substantial meals. This is where grains come in—nutritious, filling and easy to prepare in advance and enjoy for suppers, lunches and snacks throughout the week.
Why grains? Whole grains—as opposed to refined or processed grains that have been stripped of some of their nutrition—are rich in fiber, which leaves us feeling satisfied by a reasonable portion. They are also excellent sources of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, folate, selenium, potassium and magnesium.
Grains from wild rice to buckwheat to farro to millet are also major sources of protein, which is what tips a grain salad into a bona fide meal.
Good grain salad is generally more of a technique than a recipe, with your choice of grain, vegetables, dried fruit, herbs and dressing making myriad combinations to tempt your taste buds. Here are three of my favorites:
1) Summer Farro Salad
Farro should be briefly toasted in olive oil before cooking, covered, in water or broth (similar to rice). One cup of farro requires two cups of liquid and about 12-15 minutes of cooking time. Once drained and cooled to room temperature, drizzle with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently stir in fresh summer vegetables—chopped cucumber, tomato, red onion and basil. Cubed feta cheese is also delicious in this salad.
2) Fruity Wild Rice Salad
Wild rice is colorful and toothsome (one of my favorite food words), less soft than white or brown rice but ready to take on flavorful sweet-savory combinations. I love to chop vegetables very finely—red and orange bell peppers, cucumbers, carrot and celery are favorites—and stir into cooked, cooled wild rice. Add a handful of dried fruit like currants, raisins or cranberries, and dress with an Italian-style vinaigrette.
3) Warm Wheat Berry Salad
When I call this salad “warm,” I’m referring to the flavors in it, not the temperature at which it’s served—although any grain salad can be served slightly warm, at room temperature or cold. Cook wheat berries covered in simmering water for one hour, before draining and rinsing. While the berries are simmering, cook thinly sliced onions over low heat in some butter and olive oil until they are soft and caramelized. Remove to a plate, and in the same pan sauté chopped eggplant until it is brown and soft. Just before the eggplant is finished, add strips of Tuscan kale or another sturdy green to the pan to wilt it. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, drizzling with olive oil and lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Crumbled goat cheese can be added, or the salad can be enjoyed dairy-free.
What are your favorite grain salad recipes?