Thanks to last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, which provided the nifty illustration, and Mark Bittman, renowned cookbook author and one of the Times’ lead food writers, for this creative display showing the myriad of possibilities for grain salads. Summer is upon us, making this the perfect time to get a few trusted and easy-to-prepare, almost-no-cook recipes under our belts.
Gourmet grains are now universally available, which is one reason why grain salads are all the rage. I bought my first bag of farro at Costco of all places. I’ve also bought quinoa at Costco as well as brown rice. That should tell you how ubiquitous they are, when one of the nation’s largest wholesale stores carries them.
Mark writes that grain salads are more “of a concept” than a recipe because of the possibility of so many variations. You can use whatever veggies or fruits are in season and add what he refers to as “accents,” the condiments listed on the right side of the above graph (or between 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock).
Here is Mark’s suggestion for 4 servings: Start with two cups of cooked grains.* Add 1 cup of raw veggies and/or fruit along with several of the accents. Toss with a vinaigrette — a very basic one is 3 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, salt and pepper — and serve either warm or at room temperature. For impromptu al fresco dining, you can easily tailor amounts to feed any number of people.
Bittman says that he favors the heartier grains such as farro, and I agree with him. Here are links to the farro salads that I’ve posted since becoming familiar with this wonderful ancient grain.
*For grains that are new to you, I suggest preparing them according to the recipe on the package. I also highly recommend an automatic rice cooker. I have a Zojirushi rice cooker that I got at Sur La Table. It cooks a variety of grains — I use it for white and brown rice, farro, quinoa and steel-cut oats. It also has a timer that I set at night for our 7 am steel-cut oats breakfast.