When visiting my dad in northern Minnesota right on the Canadian border, I let myself “just cook” - happily forgetting that my websites are hungry for new recipes and other endless attention back at home. With proper timing, I can hit the St. Paul farmers market on the way north to stock up on fresh vegetables, then the grocery store in International Falls for staples. My poor father: when I arrive, his fridge will hold little more than a jar of peanut butter, a bag of baby carrots, a little cheese, a bottle of ketchup, a stick of butter. Fifteen minutes later, the shelves are crammed with food, none of it “ready to eat” mind you, all of it needing preparation. And so our visits begin ...
Some times though, blog-ready recipes just happen naturally. This is one, a gorgeous bowl of late-summer, early-fall goodness, a recipe I've repeated three years in a row now, first at my dad's, twice at home. It does require some of that “preparation” but none of it difficult. The results are worth it, perfect for stress-free days watching the river roll by. (And isn’t my mother's depression-glass bowl just beautiful? She sure had an eye for pretty glass!)
Grains make this salad heartier than a plain vegetable salad, satisfying and filling: a small portion works as a "side" or a larger portion for a vegan "main dish". The lemon juice in the dressing really brightens the vegetables, that's why I've learned to soak the vegetables in the dressing before stirring in the cooked grains.
RECIPE for WHOLE-GRAIN SALAD with BEETS, BEANS & CORN
Time to table: 4 hours
Makes 9 cups
3 cups cooked whole grains or brown rice (see ALANNA's TIPS)
3 cups diced cooked beets (see TIPS)
1/2 pound chopped steamed green beans (see TIPS)
2 ears cooked corn, scraped off the ears (see TIPS)
8 green onions, greens only, chopped
Fresh basil, chopped
Zest and juice (about 2 tablespoons) of a lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Lots of salt and pepper
GRAINS Cook grains according to package direction. Let cool.
VEGETABLES Prep the vegetables, green onion and fresh basil.
DRESSING Combine the dressing ingredients in a large bowl, one big enough to hold the entire salad. Stir in the prepped vegetables and let soak for a few minutes. Stir in the cooked grains. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours before serving.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
SALT An important trick for this salad: season the individual components before combining. This means to cook the grains, beans and even the corn (if cooking in water) in salted water. In the end, you'll actually use less salt but the salad itself will be properly seasoned.
CHOOSING WHOLE GRAINS So far, I've made this salad with wheat berries and bulghur wheat. Other possibilities are other sturdy grains or rice such as barley, wild rice, a mix of brown rice and wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, farro, etc. Stick with darker colors since the beets will stain the salad.
WHAT ARE WHEAT BERRIES (or WHEATBERRIES)? A wheat “berry” is the whole kernel of wheat minus the tough, exterior hull. That means it’s literally a “whole grain” with full nutritional value, nothing’s been removed. I find wheat berries in natural food stores, Whole Foods and also, very conveniently, the Bob’s Red Mill section at the grocery store. They take awhile to cook, these took two hours. Many cooks will soak wheat berries overnight first, this would shorten the cooking time. Still, wheat berries have a distinct texture, chewy, almost, and nutty too.
COOKING THE GRAINS Cook the grains according to package directions. In my experience, a cup of uncooked grains/rice yields about 3 cups cooked grains/rice. Be sure to salt the water! (FOR WHEAT BERRIES, as pictured, in a large pot, bring water and salt to a boil. Add the wheat berries, cover and cook at a fast simmer until the wheatberries are fully cooked, this can take a couple of hours. Watch the water levels, if it gets low, add more boiling water. FOR QUICK BULGHUR WHEAT, bring 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon table salt to a boil, add bulghur and cook until puffed and tender, about 20 minutes.)
BEETS Lots of different ways to cook beets here with the beet recipes but this is My Favorite Way to Roast Beets. Most recently, I made the salad with golden beets, thinking the grains wouldn't stain. The good news: they don't. The bad news: golden beets just don't have the "earthiness" that makes beets so wonderful.
BEANS Cook the beans in well-salted water, about 1 tablespoon of table salt per 4 cups of water.
CORN Again, there are lots of different ways to cook corn found in the corn recipes but if it were me, for just a couple of ears, I’d do them like this, Quick Ears of Corn in the Microwave. If the corn is young and sweet and tender, however, it may not even need cooking, just cut it off the cobs, How to Cut Corn Off the Cob, Keeping All Ten Fingers, Capturing Every Delicious Kernel and Every Drop of Sweet Corn 'Milk'. You could even drop the corn into the bean water once the beans have been cooked.
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