It’s the unofficial start to summer and you know what that means: dining alfresco! Whether it be picnics, backyard BBQ’s or lunch hours outside on a bench while soaking up a little sunshine, this grain salad with it’s rainbow of colors has you covered.
It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy nature’s bounty of fresh vegetables. If you are trying to eat a little cleaner and healthier, grain salads are for you! The satisfying chewiness of whole grains, the crunch of fresh veggies, the freshness of herbs and the zing of red wine vinegar make this salad a home run.
We are all trying to make smart choices, right? I mean, it IS bathing suit season… So, we eat a salad. I don’t know about you, but I’m always a bit peckish a few hours later. I feel proud of myself for choosing to eat lettuce, but then that feeling in my stomach comes back. It says, “Hey, are we going to eat soon?” I try to tell it we’ve already eaten, but to no avail.
That doesn’t happen with grain salads!
I can eat a small bowl and I’m not scrounging for a snack a few hours later. I’m Quite Happy with myself for choosing this over cookies for lunch and I know I’ve done something good for my body by giving it tons of vitamins and nutrients.
I’m too busy to eat!
I will be the first to admit that when I’m really busy, I don’t eat. Most people can’t even wrap their brain around that since I am LITERALLY surrounded by food all day. I know I’m not alone, right? You are guilty of this too, aren’t you? Or, even worse – I’ll grab a handful of crackers and call it lunch. That doesn’t happen as often anymore because I keep a few containers of diced veggies in the fridge and once a week, I cook large batches of grains. I portion them out and put them in zippy bags and stack them in the freezer.
This makes it much easier to throw together a quick lunch for the next day, I just toss a bag from the freezer into the fridge before I go to bed.
Workday lunches can be a drag. If you need rescuing from boring salads, sad sandwiches or fast food runs – try a grain salad. It will fill you up and keep you going all afternoon. Do you have leftover chicken from last night? Slice it up and toss it in. That’s the beauty of this kind of cooking: No rules!
Eat the Rainbow and a Whole Grain!
With all the summer holidays and gatherings coming up, this should be your new “Go To” dish. The key is COLOR! Instead of regular carrots, look for different colors (I found them at Trader Joe, btw). Check out that picture on the left above… Purple carrots are yellowy-orange inside! Beautiful! You can also use different colors of tomatoes and bell peppers. They are all available in red, orange, yellow, green & purple!
There is no mayo, so you don’t have to worry about it going bad and it’s a healthier alternative to pasta salads. You can add in chopped nuts for even more crunch, a handful of chopped apples or dried fruit for a little sweetness, bits of preserved lemon for a tart kick… The possibilities are immeasurable.
- 1 cup barley, cooked
- 1 cup freekeh, cooked
- 1 cup brown rice, cooked
- 1 1/2 cups English cucumber, diced
- 2 cups, grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
- 1 cup bell peppers, diced
- 1 cup rainbow carrots, shredded
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1/8 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- zest and juice of 1 lemon, optional... for extra zing!
- Cook grains according to package directions, set aside to cool completely.
- In a small bowl: mix vinegar, oil, salt & pepper together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix grains with vinaigrette until thoroughly combined. Fold in vegetables and herbs until evenly distributed.
- Dig In!
- While your grains are cooking, chop up the veggies and herbs. As they are cooking and cooling, you are getting all the vegetables prepped and ready to toss in. Multitasking!
- I used barley, freekeh & brown rice because it's what I had cooked. The grains change every week, so the salad varies. Try grains that are unfamiliar to you, you might just find your new favorite thing! Some of my favorites: wheatberries, farro, quinoa, red rice, amaranth & Kamut.
- This can be made a day ahead by leaving the vinaigrette aside. Mix everything and leave it dry. Put into a container with a tight-fitting lid and toss with vinaigrette right before serving.
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