Seasonal Grain Salads


Salads are absolutely one of my favorite things to cook and eat. The variety astounds me, and the way so many combinations of foods can taste so much better when tossed with a bit of olive oil and some salt. In the spring I love simple salads of crisp butter lettuce and a dusting of herbs. When summer comes, I eat heaps of tomatoes, or ribbons of raw squash, or heck, all of it combined. I am the self appointed queen of kale salads, and unusual coleslaws, panzanellas and fattoush. I especially love a salad that is a great main course, standing up all on its own.

I recently made one of my favorite kinds of these salads, incredibly fit for fall.  As I chopped persimmon and roasted cauliflower, I realized it would be easy to make a totally adaptable, pantry friendly "recipe" for grain salads. That with a rough outline of things to make it crunchy, savory, sweet, and salty, you could make grain salads year round with whatever you have on hand.

This is the best kind of picnic food, hearty and easy to transport. It's what I made when I took Get Up! and needed a healthy and satisfying lunch for a group. It's great for dinner at home with leftovers for lunch. It could even be a great side at Thanksgiving, especially if for whatever reason you had to, gasp, forgo the stuffing.

Below is a rough idea, a menu of ingredients, you can use to make a delicious, savory and hearty salad year round. These are some general ideas and I think the possibilities are endless!

Basic Combo
Cooked room temperature grains + one or more item from each category on the following list
Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and just a dash of vinegar to taste
Serve room temp!

My latest fall combo: Pearl barley; roasted delicata squash, cauliflower, and scallion; chopped persimmon; dried currants; chopped toasted almonds; raw scallion; thyme; feta cheese; dash of apple cider vinegar

- 1 cup uncooked of either: farro, barley, brown rice, white rice, bulgar or any other grain you would like
- water or broth as per directions
Note: I am now the proud owner of a rice cooker and it has been a cooking game changer! It cooks any grain without monitoring the stove or fretting over the flame. It easily cooks grains while I can jump in the shower, watch a movie, or simply prep my other ingredients without having to give it another thought.

Fall/winter: roasted squash, roasted cauliflower, raw or roasted fennel, raw kale, steamed or roasted broccoli, arugula, macerated onion, chopped and roasted radicchio
Spring/Summer: sautéed zucchini, peas, blanched green beans, halved cherry tomatoes, spring onions, diced carrot, roasted or sautéed asparagus, cubed and roasted eggplant, chopped bell pepper, cubed cucumber, diced celery, sliced radish

Diced persimmon, cubed avocado, dried currants, chopped dried apricot, fresh diced figs

Toasted, chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans; pistachios; sunflower seeds; pepitas

Cilantro, parsley, mint, thyme, tarragon, marjoram

Crumbled goat, feta, shaved parmesan