Lately I’ve felt like I hit the ‘fast-forward’ button, on life. These last couple weeks have been a real whirlwind as I settle into my new job, meet plenty of new people, and familiarize myself with all the possible routes to-and-from work (because, traffic). And at the same time, I’m still trying to squeeze out all the goodness that’s left in summer! I keep searching for the control that’ll slow life back down...but I haven’t seemed to find it yet. It’s crazy to think we’re already coming up on the end of August. I guess time truly flies when you’re having fun, right?!
This week’s food philosophy has been all about basics. Keeping things simple - even when everything around you is anything but. Stepping foot into a grocery store was the last thing I felt like doing, so instead we’ve been making due with whatever’s left from the market last weekend. That, and I’ve been reaching far back into our cupboards. Like, really reaching (my octopus arms can barely reach). It’s a scary place back there, reserved almost exclusively for moments of desperation. Why? Well first of all, I’m starting to accept that I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to bulk foods (especially if there’s a sale). The end result is that the back of our cupboards are a dark tangled mess of bags, bulk foods and incomprehensible hand-written labels with non-descript codes like 0894, 6570 or 7895. Coincidentally, these codes don’t actually tell anyone what’s inside the bag...unless of course, you happen to work at a grocery store (womp womp). So I’m instead left with a heck of a lot of mystery bags, which I conveniently tuck away and forget about.
On one of my most recent back-of-the-cupboard visits, I pulled out bag 6570, which (thanks to Google) I was able to identify as spelt berries. I haven’t cooked with spelt berries for a long time, but after cooking this first batch, I wanted to smack my head and remind myself to do this more often. And I did.
This recipe is almost too easy. Simply cook your grains and toss them in with fresh veggies and a lip-smacking vinaigrette. The fresh lemon, combined with heaps of fresh parsley and dill, brings much needed excitement to something as generic sounding as a “grain salad”. Don’t let the name fool you - this salad is anything but boring.
Grain salads are definitely one of the most versatile week-day recipes in my opinion. They make for a filling main dish, and pair beautifully with a protein of choice (if that's your jam). Or for a lighter option, simply toss some of the grain salad onto a bed of greens. You can serve the dish warm or cold (I’m currently digging the cold route). The veggies recommended for this recipe tend to keep well in the fridge overnight, so you’ll have a sturdy salad to munch on for the next day or two. Feel free to make substitutions to suite what you have on hand, but keep in mind that some chopped veggies keep better than others.
Grain Salad with Fresh Lemon and Herbs
- 1½ cup spelt berries, rinsed (or other grain, see note 1)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, chopped
- 1 English cucumber, chopped
- ¾ cup lightly packed flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- Cook spelt berries: Bring a large salted pot of water to boil over medium-high heat. Add spelt berries and boil until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.
- Make dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Combine: Add drained spelt berries to dressing. Toss to coat. Add bell peppers, cucumber, parsley, and dill. Stir to mix.
- Other grain substitutes: Farro would be a great substitute for wheat berries. Alternatively, you could use barley. Check the package directions and adjust cook times accordingly as whole grains vary.
- Serving suggestions: If you're looking to add more protein to this dish, try chickpeas, cannellini beans, navy beans, or crumbled feta.