Grains for Days | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Grains for Days

A hearty grain salad recipe with tons of possibilities

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During the meat-free Nine Days leading up to Tisha B’av, it may seem unusual to talk about delicious food, but in my family, feasting on vegetarian, fish, and dairy meals is something we actually look forward to. At this time of year, when the weather is oppressively hot and humid, eating meat feels more like a burden than a pleasure. My seasonal go-to meals are often salads made with whole grains.

Whole grain salads are substantial and filling, so no one leaves the table feeling as if they’re going to starve. They also make life easy for me. I can prepare them ahead – entirely or in parts – and they are so versatile that I can use the same “recipe,” change an ingredient or two and the dish seems different. It’s never boring.

Let me explain.

The salad in the recipe below consists of cooked kamut, (sometimes called turanicum). It’s a form of wheat (khorasan) that some people believe is the "Prophet’s wheat" that Noah took into the ark. The large grains are packed with iron, other essential minerals, and fatty acids, and is higher in protein than other forms of wheat, so I like the nutritional value. But you can make this salad with any grain you fancy: farro, brown rice, wheatberries, oat groats, barley, and quinoa. Each type requires a different amount of water and cooking time. For example, kamut takes about an hour (less if you soak it); quinoa about 15 minutes. Check the package instructions.

I frequently add beans or legumes to a whole grain salad, for bulk and texture. For this recipe, it was chick peas, but canned white beans, kidney beans, or lima beans will also do. Or no beans at all – instead, perhaps cut up firm tofu.

I always have carrots and tomatoes in the bin, always have an avocado ripening near the window, so those are easy additions at my house. But you could substitute or add any cooked vegetables: green or yellow string beans, asparagus, peas, corn kernels, broccoli, and so on.

Sometimes I add leftover cooked fish to this recipe, sometimes a crumbly cheese (feta, goat). Once in a while I throw in some chopped, toasted almonds or cashews and from time to time, include dried fruit or raisins. One of our favorites was a farro-salmon-blue cheese-dried cranberries combo.

As for the dressing, nothing is simpler than this one: a good olive oil and some wine vinegar (although I have used avocado oil and regular vegetable oil). Lemon juice can take the place of the vinegar. You’ll notice I don’t use too much dressing, we don’t like a “wet” salad, but you certainly could add more if you prefer.

In summer, I love using mint and parsley to season a salad, but, depending on the other ingredients you might include, think about fresh dill, thyme, oregano, tarragon, marjoram, or any other fresh herb that pleases your palate. Of course, chopped scallion, red onion, Vidalias – these would be tasty additions too. And, if you like to jazz up a salad with some heat – mix in a small chopped chili pepper or sprinkle the salad with cayenne or Aleppo pepper.

The hard-cooked egg is a tribute to Tisha B’av, when observant families will serve this simple ingredient before the fast. It makes a salad seem more satisfying and it’s pretty too, so while this dish may be perfect during the Nine Days, keep this recipe – or a variation of it – in mind throughout the summer.

Kamut (or Any Whole Grain Salad) with Carrots, Tomatoes, Hard-Egg, and Herbs

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