My wife, Natalie, makes this amazing ancient grain salad that is a family favorite. Her version is made with Israeli cous cous, which is softer and more pasta-like. We're trying to make an honest effort, though, to incorporate more whole grains into our diet. So, I've adapted her salad using my favorite Ancient Grains recipe. This recipe is incredibly versatile, making it the perfect new-to-grains-person recipe.
Natalie's Grain Salad-It's all about Texture
Grain blends highlight textures, and so using a mix of 3-4 grains gives great variety and flavor to your salads and bowls. Aside from the grains themselves though, Natalie's Ancient Grain Salad is packed with good-for-you ingredients that taste delicious and never let your palate get bored. Let's take a look:
- Toasted Almonds- one of the most nutrient dense foods, high in vitamin E, protein, and "good" fats. Almonds add crunch as well as nutrition.
- Dried Cranberries- high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Dried cranberries add chewiness and tartness that balance out the earthiness of the grains
- Baby Tomatoes- low in calories and high in vitamins A and C, fresh tomatoes in this recipe work to provide the balance of acid and sugar, as well as the refreshing texture of "rawness" that plays off the fresh basil, garlic, and lemon
Tips for Cooking with Grains
Our lives have gotten so busy, and so removed from the practical time it takes to cook whole foods. I know! With 3 kids and a schedule that keeps me constantly on the move and working even when I'm "done working", it is an impossible task sometimes to try and eat the way I really want to. So, from one over-worked, over-busy, completely exhausted person to another, these are my tips:
- Remember that most grains are about boiling water, adding the grains (and maybe some seasonings) and letting them cook until they're done. It's that simple. You can fill a pot with water, bring to a boil and add your grains. Then, cook your grains until they are tender (this takes some testing along the way, but can be done). My recipe for ancient grains is a great one-pot starter that takes all the guess work out of it, but is based on this basic principle.
- All grains can be cooked ahead of time and keep very well in the refrigerator. So, you can make a larger batch of the bulk grains and have them available for quick meals during the busy week.
- Grains don't have to be hippy-food healthy all the time. I love making them into these cheesy grits with ancient grains to eat with fried yams and greens. Or, these ancient grain raspberry pancakes with tons of powdered sugar. Start with foods you like, and slowly incorporate the grains into them.
Natalie's Ancient Grain Salad
juice of ½ lemon
- Place the cooked ancient grains in a medium sized mixing bowl.
- Add in the toasted almonds, dried cranberries, basil, cherry tomatoes, and salt. Stir to combine.
- In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil until warm. Add the garlic and stir. Let cook for about 30 seconds, just long enough for the aromas to be released from the garlic and for the raw flavor to mellow.
- Add the garlic and all of the oil that it was cooked in to the mixing bowl.
- Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir all of the ingredients together.
- Taste and add more oil or lemon if desired. This salad can be as wet or dry as you like it.