As Thanksgiving creeps up on us--and, hopefully, cooler weather too--it's time to start thinking of hearty and tasty dishes that, hey, are also healthy. I don't know about you but I have family members who are vegetarian so I also need to come up with some sides that they can enjoy along with the rest of us omnivores. Grains are always a favorite of mine and grain salads are a no brainer--but have you thought of combining grains in a salad?
Creating a multi-grain salad means you get a more interesting combination of flavors and textures, not to mention colors. It all depends of what you mix together. I love the chew of red wheat berries. They're perfect with robust vegetables like winter squash and thick-cut portobello mushroom. Quinoa is more delicate and colorful and works well with fruit, red peppers, cheese, beans, and cucumbers. Farro's nuttiness fits somewhere in the middle. I enjoy combining it with roasted cauliflower, tomatoes, and lots of herbs.
I decided to mix these three up together and add fruit in the form of fuyu persimmons and some beans--garbanzo and edamame--for color, texture, and sweetness. I got some crunch from toasted walnuts and pecans. And I added chopped red onions--just because. The Mexican tarragon in my garden is flowering now in bright yellow. Adding them to my salad gave me a slight anise flavor and some bold color. Altogether, coated in a tangy sherry vinaigrette, this salad has been my go-to meal for several days, even with our heatwave. I know it will be a hit for Thanksgiving!
Now a word of advice, here. Combining grains doesn't at all mean cooking them together. It's a little extra work, but you must cook each grain type separately. If you don't, you risk getting mush instead of the individual textures and flavors you're after.
Also feel free to mix together your own combinations of whole grains. Consider barley, brown rice, kamut, and spelt, among others. And all sorts of other seasonal vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs will work well, too. This recipe should be inspiration to create a dish based on what you enjoy and what you find in the markets.
Three-Grain Salad with Persimmons, Beans, and Nuts
Serves 6 to 8
1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup wheat berries
3 1/2 cups chicken broth (or water/vegetable broth for vegetarians)
1/ cup red onion, diced
2 Fuyu persimmons, chopped
1 cup cooked edamame beans (available at Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
1 tablespoon Mexican tarragon, chopped
Yield: 1 cup
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch ground pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook each grain according to directions. For the farro and quinoa, the proportions are like rice: 2 to 1 water to grain. Bring the stock or water to the boil, add the grains, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes. You're looking for the stock or water to be absorbed and the grains to still have a little chewiness. For wheat berries, it's more like 3 to 1 with a longer cooking time, more like 35 to 40 minutes. It's okay if the water isn't fully absorbed as long as the grains are cooked and are a little al dente.
In a large bowl combine the grains with the rest of the salad ingredients.
To make the vinaigrette, mix together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Whisk until the dressing has emulsified. Pour enough into the salad to coat the ingredients, but not so much that in drenches it. Serve at room temperature.