Summer is the perfect time to wed whole grains to fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits for a hearty lunch or dinner side dish. Take them to potlucks, deliver one to a sick friend or pack for a picnic. Whole grains stand up to time, can be quick to assemble and accompany nearly any other menu item. Here is a blueprint for making a variety of whole grain salads that match a cuisine you love.
- Cook one cup of your favorite brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, farro or barley. Most of these grains are one part grain to two parts water. The timing of each varies and it’s usually advised to rinse quinoa well before cooking to wash away a bitter coating.
- Choose a dressing. A simple vinaigrette could be four tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of lemon juice, a dash of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
- Select some fresh herbs: mint, dill, cilantro, parsley, green onions, chives, tarragon, chervil, basil, green garlic (the tops of new garlic).
- Add fresh vegetables: cucumber, tiny tomatoes, celery, sweet peppers, olives, avocado, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, hot peppers, fennel, asparagus, roasted eggplant.
- Think about a cheese: feta, mozzarella, queso fresco, goat cheese
- Consider nuts: cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios
- If you want to add some sweetness, honey is good choice but so are fruits: dried apricots diced, raisins, dried mango or fresh blueberries and strawberries.
- To assemble the salad, build the added ingredients and lastly add the cooked grains. This way the grains won’t stick together in the bottom of the bowl. Find a theme for each salad and build the flavors that complement the cuisines you love.
Southwestern: rice, cilantro, green onions, queso fresco, avocado, tomato, jalapeno or Anaheim chilies.
Middle Eastern: bulgur wheat, green onions, parsley, cucumber, mint, almonds
Italian: farro, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, sweet peppers, olives, artichoke hearts
Irish: barley, dill, parsley, tarragon, chervil, chives, green garlic
Greek: quinoa, feta, tomatoes, basil, chives, olives, oregano
Indian: rice, nuts, dried fruits, chives, curry powder or turmeric
- Pour the dressing over the salad, taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as you like. You can serve it warm or let it cool. I like it best lukewarm–even in summer.