Which leads me to spend the next 500 or so words spouting all the greatness of the grain salad. Grain salads are a lot like regular salads, only they’re loaded with heart-healthy whole grains like barley, farro, or wheat berries — plus all the greens and produce you love in traditional salads. Added bonus, they are the perfect way to get rid of leftover grains you are not exactly sure what to do with the second time.
There are no real recipe required for a grain salad, but after a fair amount of online and in kitchen research there are a few simple “rules” to follow (or not, it’s your salad after all) to make a truly delish dish.
- Choose and cook your grains – This a simple choose what you like and follow the package instructions on cooking. Two quick notes to go with this though. First, our bulk department has a slew of interesting grains, so swing by and grab a 1/2 a cup and try something new without the risk of buying a whole bag and not liking it. Second, like I mentioned this is a great way to use up leftovers, but keep this in mind: When you’re making a grain salad, you want separate, intact grains that hold onto their starch, both so that they’ll absorb dressing properly and so that they won’t release that starch into the rest of the salad. That means that if you have clumpy brown rice in the fridge that maybe took in a bit too much water on the stove, it would find a better home in a pot of soup.
- Be creative with your add ins – This is where to let your personal taste will really shine through. Just keep in mind whether you have roasted, sautéed, grilled, or left your veggies raw, doesn’t really matter, but you want to make sure everything you cook cools before combining it with your other ingredients, and you are looking for at least equal volumes of grains to veg. This is also the perfect place to add fresh herbs, I am a huge proponent of Italian flat leaf parsley and chives, go ahead and toss a handful in and don’t look back.
- Add the acid – Grains can range in flavor from neutral to earthy, so adding acid with either a vinaigrette or fresh citrus juice is important. If you are making the dressing yourself, I would say go slightly more acidic or pungent than you would for an all greens salad, the grains can take it. Also, keep in mind that the longer a grain salad sits, the more dressing they will absorb. So if you’re making it a few hours or a day ahead of time, err on the side of slightly overdressed, and it should be perfect at serving time.
- Garnish, garnish, garnish – I frequently think of a garnish as a sister step to seasoning. Now granted you have salted and peppered and tasted the whole way through, but use your garnishes to add that additional flavor or texture or richness to your salad. Cheese is always a great option that hits all those points, but also try: toasted nuts, dried fruit, pungent olives or capers, or a bit of heat in the form of fresh peppers or pastes.
One of my more successful salads of late was one that combined: Wild rice, arugula, dried apricots parsley, and pistachios.
But again, let the fall flavors and cool in the air lead your way, and if you need a bit more inspiration here are a few recipes to get you going:
Farro Salad with Peas and Lemon-Yogurt Dressing recipe from Naturally Ella
Autumn Glow Salad With Lemon Salad Dressing recipe from Pinch of Yum
Herbed Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad from Cookie + Kate
Garlic Kale And Brown Rice Salad recipe from Pinch of Yum