Vegetable and Grain Salad

14 07 2011

You can try to plan it out.  You can try to make sure you have holiday-appropriate recipes all ready in advance.  You can spend hours taking that perfect photo.  You can read, and re-read, and edit.  You can post regularly, multiple times per week, or day.  There are lots of you who do, and that’s why your blogs are better than mine.  Me, I’m in a phase with my blog right now where I am just letting it come to me.  If I don’t have inspiration to write about something, I’m not going to force you to read my pained output.  I’ve got a couple of books I’ve been trying to write about for weeks now.  But I’m afraid the truth is I don’t have much to say about them.  What I am excited about right now, and what I want to share with you, is this:

Don't judge a book by its cover.

I know.  It kind of looks like barf.  But this is just one in a parade of such grain-and-vegetable salads I’ve made over the last few weeks.  I wouldn’t keep making if they weren’t tasty.  It started with a box of blé, which translates literally to “wheat” but often refers in French to a particular product that resembles wheat berries in the way that Uncle Ben’s resembles rice.  I acquired this box of blé when a friend was moving away, and Nick and I both actually like the stuff – it’s a nice change from rice or pasta – so using hasn’t really been a problem.  But one day it occurred to me, perhaps following a party at a friend’s where she served a couple of delicious grain-based salads, that I could use the blé as more than just a side dish.  Combine that epiphany with a weekly delivery of fresh vegetables and an uncommonly delicious salad dressing, and you’ve got what’s been a very popular dinner in my house of late.

So far I’ve done it with asparagus, broccoli, and zucchini, but I suspect it’s also good with green beans, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, winter squash… you get the idea.  When I finally ran out of blé, I bought and used petit épeautre* which was equally successful.  I originally wanted to type this up as a nice recipe (see above re: planning), but the more I think about it, the more I think this is something you should be able to play around with.

Here’s how it goes.  Cook your grains in a pot of boiling water.  (If they require it, as my spelt did, soak them ahead of time.)  While the grains are cooking, make the dressing** and prepare and cook your vegetables.  Roasting and sautéeing are my preferred methods, for the flavorful browned bits they produce, but if you’d rather just steam yours over the already boiling pot of water, that’s fine, too, and saves energy to boot.  When the grains are tender, drain them and gently stir in the vegetables and dressing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  A little crisped bacon, chunks of ham, or shredded cooked chicken would be good additions, too, but I assure you it’s just fine without the meat.  Some toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds add a nice crunch.  Fresh herbs like parsley or basil could add a fresh note.  See what I mean?  This “recipe” is so infinitely adaptable I see no reason to commit to just one version.

Have fun with it, and happy Bastille Day!

*Anyone who knows the difference between spelt and farro, and their respective names in French, is implored to comment here and enlighten me and my readers.

** I linked to the dressing recipe above, but here’s my paraphrased version: take a small pot of plain yogurt (about 125 grams or 4 ounces), add 4 big spoonfuls of tahini, a big pinch of salt, the juice of half a lemon, and a couple of smashed garlic cloves.  Blend them together.  The flavor of this dressing can vary according to the juiciness of the lemon and the pungency of the garlic, but it is always delicious.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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Manger Comme Un(e) Français(e)

10 07 2009

After all that vacation-time excess, I returned home to Paris only to discover that most of my jeans had mysteriously shrunk.  It was time to start eating vegetables again.  (Not that I didn’t have any in the States, but the portions were always small in comparison to the hunks of juicy meat they were served with.)  So Nick and I headed down to the market to find fodder for some vegetable-laden meals.  Among other things, we came back with some gorgeous spinach and some bright red “Corne” peppers.  (Not sure if they’re the same as “Corne de Boeuf.”  Anyone?)  We decided to combine them in a quiche, which may not sound like the Lightest of All Possible Dinners, but hey, you have to ease into these things.

Ah, fire-roasted peppers.
1. Corne Peppers, Post-Char, 2. Pepper Braid

Plus, I used a new favorite whole wheat crust recipe.  Clotilde posted it on Chocolate & Zucchini several weeks ago, and I am as enthusiastic about it as she is.  Who ever thought a healthy tart crust could taste so good?  I love that it is full of whole grain goodness (while she suggests using light whole wheat flour or half white, half whole wheat, I have made it twice with all whole wheat flour, and have no complaints) and the olive oil is not only a healthier fat than butter, it’s also easier to work with, especially on warm summer afternoons.  Plus, the amount fits perfectly into my big ceramic tart dish.

Spinach, roasted peppers, and whole wheat crust

But back to the quiche.  After studding the spinach and pepper-filled crust with little cubes of feta, I filled in the gaps with a lighter version of my usual quiche custard (replacing one of the yolks with a whole egg and using more milk, less cream).  We played a round of cribbage while it baked, and when it was done we were treated to a tasty vegetarian supper.

This is as health food as I get.

As expected, the lighter custard, once baked, was firmer and less luxurious than the standard, but in this case, given that we’d kind of had our fill of rich, fatty food for the time being, that was just fine.  What we didn’t expect was the pepper to be as spicy as it was.  We were expecting piquillo-like smokiness, which was there, but the first bite with some real heat was a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. 

Later in the week we got a double panier from the CSA, the first of four additional paniers we will be getting to make up for the ones we missed while on vacation.  They were full of zucchini, garlic, and tomatoes, which fortunately are great together and serve as a basis for all kinds of light meals.  My jeans should fit again in no time.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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